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Effective TMJ Jaw Exercises for Jaw Pain

If you are experiencing jaw pain that started recently,

  1. Please discontinue any hard or chewy food, such as: nuts, hard candies, well-done meat and raw vegetables for 1-2 weeks.

  2. Please also avoid foods that will require you to open your mouth too big. Food such as sandwiches, burgers and apples, should be cut into smaller pieces.

  3. Massage of the biting muscles on both sides at the same time ( Trigger point massage) should be done on averaged 3-4 times per day for 2-5 minutes each time.

  4. The TMJ exercises below can strengthen muscles and restore the healthy function of the jaw. They may also stretch tight or tense muscles and help them to relax. Generally, this type of physical therapy will be used in conjunction with ice as needed.

Relaxation exercise

The first jaw exercise involves simple relaxation. Follow these steps:

  • Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth.

  • Relax the jaw muscles. By doing so, your upper and lower jaw should comfortably come apart. You can easily do this exercise at work or school, while driving or even while waiting in line at a store.

  • After practicing the relaxation exercise, open and close your mouth slowly while keeping your tongue in place at the roof of your mouth.

Another exercise is to place your thumb underneath your chin and then use your thumb as resistance while you open the jaw for a few seconds. Then, hold your chin gently using your pointer finger and your thumb while your mouth is closed. Open your mouth using pressure from your finger and thumb as resistance. Then, return your mouth to a closed position and repeat this 10 times.

Chin tuck exercise

A chin tuck is also an effective exercise:

  • While standing up, pull your shoulders comfortably back.

  • Then, move your head and neck so that you create a double chin.

  • After holding this position for a few seconds, return to a relaxed state.

  • You can also work on jaw movement by first biting down on a quarter-inch thick object such as popsicle sticks.

  • Start by moving your jaw side to side while clenching your teeth on this object.

  • Then, move your jaw forward and backward. Do this also for 10 times.

Jaw expansion exercise

For patients who are suffering from limited jaw opening due to sore and tight jaw muscles, there are jaw expansion exercises you can do again using popsicle sticks:

  • Using a stack of popsicle sticks that matches how far you can comfortably open your mouth, place the stack of popsicle sticks in your mouth between the back upper and lower teeth.

  • Add one popsicle stick to the current stack to expand the jaw.

  • Keep the stack of popsicle sticks there for 30-60 seconds 4x/day. 3.

  • Continue to add one popsicle stick per week until the stack reaches 40-48mm.

For each of these exercises, you can repeat them several times per session, and you can incorporate several sessions into your daily routine. Your dentist may provide you with more specific suggestions based on your situation. If your pain persists, contact your dentist to discuss other treatment options.

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