If your jaw often clicks, locks or hurts when you open and close your mouth, or you have unexplained aches in your head, neck or ears, you might have a TMJ disorder.
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the two joints that connect your lower jaw to your upper jaw. Strain or injuries to these joints can cause pain and discomfort that impacts on quality of life for many people.
TMJ dysfunction (TMD) can't always be cured, but the good news is that its symptoms can often be effectively managed. Here are six tried and tested TMJ exercises that can help reduce pain and discomfort, strengthen your jaw muscles and speed up the healing process.
1. Relax your jaw
Ease the strain on your jaw joints and muscles by resting your tongue on the roof of your mouth, behind your front teeth. As you do this, you should feel your mouth open and your jaw relax.
2. Goldfish exercises
After relaxing your jaw as above, put one finger of each hand over the TMJ joints on both sides of your head (in front of your ears). Put another finger on your chin.
Now open your lower jaw half-way or all the way, depending on how severe your TMJ pain is, and close it again. Repeat this action six times, and do this multiple times throughout the day.
3. Chin tucks
Give yourself a double chin by pulling your shoulders and your chin back while lifting your chest. You should hold this unflattering pose for three seconds and repeat ten times.
4. Resisted opening and closing
These exercises help to strengthen your jaw muscles and relieve discomfort when chewing. Try to open your mouth while your thumb gently pushes against your chin from below, then try to close your mouth while squeezing your chin between your index finger and thumb. Hold each pose for up to six seconds.
5. Side to side jaw movement
Place a thin object (about half a centimetre wide) between your upper and lower front teeth and gently bite down. Move your jaw from side to side several times. You can use wider objects as your jaw starts to relax.
6. Forward jaw movement
With the same small object in your teeth, push your lower jaw in front of your upper jaw to give yourself an underbite. Hold this position for a few seconds at a time. You can increase the size of the object as you feel less resistance from your jaw.
Can TMD be treated?
TMJ disorders can be complex and it's not always possible to pin down a precise cause, but your dentist will suggest a number of possible treatments based on your individual case.
These can include trying to avoid stress in your life, practising meditation, or dental treatments if your TMD is related to an uneven bite or teeth grinding (bruxism). Severe TMD cases may require joint surgery.
Talk to a dentist in Sydney
If you think you might have TMJ dysfunction or you want to speak to a dentist about any other issue, get in touch with our friendly and experienced team at Sailors Bay Dentistry.