The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that allows you to chew, talk, and yawn. The TMJ connects your jaw to your skull’s temporal bones in front of each ear and enables your jaw to move up and down and side to side.
If you have TMJ disorders, actively exercising your jaw can help subside the negative side effects.
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint is a hinge action and sliding motion joint. A disc cushions the joint, allowing the jaw to rotate, glide, close, and open.
TMJ disorders occur when something goes wrong with your jaw joints and jaw muscles. Often, this happens because of a jaw injury, inflammation such as arthritis, or overuse.
The most common causes of pain include:
- dislocated joint
- issues with tooth and jaw alignment
- muscle tension
- teeth grinding or clenching
TMJ disorders may cause mild to debilitating symptoms, such as:
- pain while chewing
- pain in the ear, face, jaw, and neck
- clicking, grating, or popping sounds in the jaw when you open or close your mouth
- locking of the jaw joint
TMJ can cause active pain and discomfort. However, trying relaxing, stretching, and strengthening exercises should help keep the pain from returning.
By doing strengthening exercises, you can lessen the pain during a TMJ flare-up. These exercises involve opening and closing your mouth while placing some resistance on your chin.
Here are two strengthening exercises:
- Place one thumb under your chin and gently push downward against it with moderate force. As you press your thumb, slowly open your mouth, keeping it open for 5-10 seconds before slowly closing it.
- Open your mouth as wide as you comfortably can. Put your index finger between your chin and lower lip. Gently push as you close your mouth.
If the cause of your pain and discomfort in your TMJ is stress-related, simple relaxation exercises can help.
Here are two relaxation exercises:
- Slowly inhale, allowing your stomach rather than your chest to expand. Exhale slowly while making your exhalation last about as long as your inhalation. Repeat 5-10 times.
- While sitting or lying in a comfortably supported position, tense and release tension from each muscle in your body. Begin with the feet and work upwards to the head.
Stretching your jaw and joint area can help keep TMJ pain from returning. Remember to be careful, and if you experience pain while doing the exercises, stop immediately.
Here are two stretching exercises:
- Relax your jaw, then with your teeth slightly apart, slowly open your mouth as wide as you can while looking up with your eyes. Hold your mouth open for a few seconds, then slowly close it.
- Once your mouth is closed, move your jaw to the left while looking to the left with your eyes. Do not turn your neck or head. Hold this position for a few seconds, then move back to the center. Repeat on the opposite side.
TMJ Prevention With Park Avenue
TMJ exercises are an effective way to obtain pain relief, but how you care for your oral health can influence the healing process.
Keep in mind when trying any TMJ exercises that they shouldn’t hurt. Pain, when stretching or opening your mouth, is an indication that you should speak with your dentist or primary care physician.
At Park Avenue Dental, we will conduct any necessary procedures in our office or work with a specialist to supply you with the TMJ treatment that will meet your needs. Contact us to start your treatment today.