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Jaw Problems: Exercise and Relaxation

Topic Overview

To help prevent or treat a temporomandibular disorder (TMD), you can try gentle jaw exercises. You can also try techniques that help you relax your jaw muscles.

Exercise

Try a gentle exercise to restore normal range of motion, improve flexibility, and strengthen the jaw muscles. Your doctor, dentist, or physical therapist can recommend additional exercises.

Do not do this exercise when your pain is severe or if it makes your pain worse.

  • While watching yourself in a mirror, gently open and close your mouth, dropping your jaw straight up and down.
  • Repeat for a few minutes each morning and night.
  • Look for small improvements in the jaw's range of motion as you practice this exercise from day to day.

Relaxation

Paying attention to how you use your jaw can both prevent and help relieve symptoms.

Good habits that help relax and rest your jaw include:

  • Keep your teeth apart and your lips closed.
  • Keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth, not between your teeth.

Avoid things that make your jaw tense:

  • Cradling the telephone receiver between your shoulder and jaw.
  • Opening your mouth all the way, as when singing loudly or yawning (try dropping your head to your chest to stifle a yawn).
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth, biting your lips, or chewing your fingernails. Try to recognize when you are clenching your teeth, then relax your jaw and separate your teeth.
  • Clenching things such as pens, pipes, or cigars between your teeth.

For more tips, see Jaw Problems: Changing Your Diet and Temporomandibular Disorders: Ways to Ease Pain.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry
Last Revised January 11, 2012

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