Advice to help with your jaw joint and jaw muscles
Try not to worry too much about your jaw and facial pain; these are very common problems and often get better on their own. By following the advice on this leaflet you can speed up your recovery. There are some other simple forms of treatment that may be appropriate for you and the dentist treating you will be able to advice as to whether or not further treatment would be appropriate for you.
- Avoid chewing gum. Never bite your nails or hold a pen between your teeth. Avoid chewing your lip or the inside of your mouth. These actions pull your jaw joint into an unnatural position and can make your joints and muscles ache.
- Eat soft food and chew only on the painful side using the back teeth. If both sides hurt then chew on both sides. This rests the muscles and reduces the strain on the painful joint. Avoid hard foods and cut into small pieces so that you don’t move your jaw excessively during chewing.
- Chew on your back teeth. Chewing on the front teeth puts a strain on the joints and the muscles that move your jaw. If you have no back teeth consider the possibility of having dentures to replace them; your dentist can advise you on this.
- Do not open your mouth widely as this puts a strain on the jaw joint; for example – try to avoid opening wide when you yawn. If you require dental treatment you may need to postpone this or discuss with your dentist the possibility of several short treatments rather than fewer more prolonged treatments
- Never grind your teeth or clench them in anger. Some people develop this habit under stress without realising it. Try to be aware of the position of your jaw during the day and make a conscious effort to keep your teeth apart and your jaw muscles relaxed.
- Resting your jaw on your hands, singing and the playing of certain musical instruments may make your pain worse, so avoid these activities if this applies to you.
Exercises to help with jaw pain
The exercises described below can help to re-train you to open your mouth in a more natural way to help reduce your pain and discomfort.
- Sit comfortably in front of a mirror, your back teeth should be gently resting together and you should be relaxed. Your tongue should be resting just behind your front teeth.
- Slowly curl your tongue backwards so that your feel it running over the roof of your mouth, continue to push back your tongue as hard as you can and keep it in contact with the roof of your mouth while you slowly open your mouth. Check in the mirror that your lower jaw moves downwards in a vertical (straight down) movement and that it does not move sideways at any time during opening. Most people find that the tip of the tongue moves away from the palate during mouth opening; do not allow this to happen. Hold the open position for 5 seconds and then close your mouth and relax before repeating the exercise.
- If your jaw clicks during the exercise it means that you are not doing it properly, so start again from the beginning.
- At the beginning you may find that there is no improvement and the pain may seem to get worse; don’t worry, this is common and should improve fairly soon. After the first week do the exercise for many short periods each day and slow but gradual improvement will follow.
Continue with the exercises until your next appointment and for a further 2-3 months after you feel better.
Suggestions for pain relief of jaw and muscles.
- Apply heat to the joint or muscles that hurt. The application of heat for 15 minutes 3-4 times a day may be beneficial. Wrap a towel around a hot water bottle or apply a moist hot towel to the area. Pain relieving gels may be then massaged over area to help relieve pain – please ask for advice on this.
- The use of simple painkillers such as plain aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol can be beneficial; if you have pain present most of the time it may be advisable to take painkillers regularly for a number of days.
- Learn and practice some relaxation techniques; many people with jaw and facial pain feel stressed, so anything that reduces stress will be of benefit.
- Massage the tender muscle areas using your thumbs or fingers: feel for the tender areas, apply moderate pressure and slowly massage the muscles. This may feel tender but will help over a period of time
- A bite guard could be made for you to wear at night which will help take the pressure off the joint. Your dentist will advise on this.