Temporomandibular joint and muscle (TMJ) disorders are a group of conditions that cause dysfunction and pain in the jaw joint, as well as the muscles that control jaw movement. In some cases, surgical treatments may be required, however, typically, the discomfort and pain associated with TMJ disorders are temporary and can be relieved with non-invasive therapies, including doing TMJ exercises.
Some of these jaw exercises for TMJ have frequency recommendations. For those that don’t, contact your dental specialist for guidance.
1. Relaxed jaw exercise
Rest your tongue gently on the top of your mouth and behind your upper front teeth. Then allow your teeth to come apart while you relax your jaw muscles.
2. Goldfish exercises (partial opening)
Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and one of your fingers in front of your ear where your TMJ is located. Put your pointer finger on your chin, drop your lower jaw halfway and then close it. You should feel mild resistance but no pain. A variation of this exercise is to place one finger on each TMJ point as you drop your lower jaw halfway and then close it again.
3. Goldfish exercises (full opening)
Keeping your tongue on the roof of your mouth, place one finger on your TMJ point and another on your chin (or you can do both TMJs at the same time). Drop your lower jaw completely, and then close your mouth again. One set of exercises involves doing this six times, and you should do one set six times a day.
4. Chin tucks
With your chest up and your shoulders back, pull your chin straight back and create a “double chin.” Hold this pose for three seconds and repeat it ten times.
5. Resisted mouth opening
Place your thumb under your chin and open your mouth slowly while you gently push against your chin for resistance. Hold for three to six seconds, and then close your mouth slowly.
6. Resisted mouth closing
Squeeze your chin with your thumb and index finger with one hand. Close your mouth as you gently place pressure on your chin. This exercise will help strengthen the muscles that help you to chew.
7. Tongue up
Slowly open and close your mouth while your tongue is touching the roof of your mouth.
8. Side-to-side jaw movements
Place a half a centimetre object (like a tongue depressor or craft stick) between your front teeth. Slowly move your jaw from side to side. As this exercise becomes easier, increase the thickness of the object between your teeth.
9. Forward jaw movement
Place a half a centimetre object (like a tongue depressor or craft stick) between your front teeth. Move your bottom jaw forward, so your bottom teeth are in front of your top teeth. Increase the thickness of the object between your teeth as this exercise becomes easier.
Other non-invasive therapies
- A soft-food diet—Eating a softened or pureed diet can help reduce pain.
- Joint rest—Reduce jaw movements to within the range of mouth opening that is comfortable. Try to also keep your lower and upper jaw teeth apart when at rest.
- Cold or heat packs—These can relieve pain when applied directly to the site of discomfort or pain.
- Medications—These can relax muscles and/or relieve jaw pain. They include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants and certain medications used to treat depression.
- Wearing a mouth guard or an occlusal splint—These can minimise teeth grinding or jaw clenching, especially at night.
- TMJ physiotherapy—These include relaxation exercises, acupuncture, neck treatment, posture improvement, timing correction, and TMJ movement pattern, joint mobilisation and stabilisation exercises.
- Counselling—Counselling and education can help you understand the behaviours and factors that may aggravate your pain so you can avoid them. These include leaning on your chin, biting your fingernails or teeth grinding or clenching, which often occurs during sleep.
TMJ exercises not offering relief? Contact the experts at the Dental Implant and Specialist Centre to discuss your treatment options on (07) 5503 1744.
- 2016, What Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Exercises Relieve Pain? Healthline