Cosmetic Dentistry

5 Facial Exercises for TMJ

August 23, 2022
A man with TMJ pain

If you have TMJ, you know how painful it can be. At Perfect White Smile, we often recommend facial exercises for TMJ pain relief. 

TMJ pain is usually caused by a disorder in the temporomandibular joint (the TMJ). TMJ disorders can aggravate the jaw muscles, the nerves, and the joint itself, and cause inflammation and pain. 

Most people with TMJ experience pain on one side of their face, near the TMJ joint. Pain may intensify when you open and close your mouth or when chewing. 

Jaw exercises for TMJ relief often involve working to 

  • Strengthen the muscles in the jaw
  • Stretch the tendons and ligaments in the joint
  • Increase range of motion
  • Relax the jaw muscles
  • Relieve tension

It is generally thought that TMJ is exacerbated by stress, and by teeth grinding and clenching. These TMJ exercises can help to relieve the pain and improve jaw movement.

5 Facial Exercises for TMJ

As with any stretch or exercise, you want to stop if you experience pain. You should feel stretching sensations, but they should not hurt. You will want to start slowly and work your way up to more activity over time.

Gentle Massage

One of the most helpful things you can do to treat TMJ pain is to gently massage the sore area. We recommend a gentle face massage before and after any other jaw stretches for TMJ. Think of this a bit like a warm-up exercise. It will help relieve some pain and get your muscles relaxed and ready for the work ahead. 

Goldfish Exercises

The “goldfish” exercise is a well-known and very effective exercise for TMJ. According to Healthline, the proper way to do this stretch is to:

  • Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and one finger in front of your ear where your TMJ is located. 
  • Put your middle or pointer finger on your chin. 
  • Drop your lower jaw halfway and then close. 
  • There should be mild resistance but not pain. 

You might also try placing one index finger on each TMJ, and dropping your lower jaw halfway. Then close it again. Healthline recommends that you “do this exercise six times in one set. You should do one set six times daily.”

Another variation on the goldfish is the full-open version, which is very similar, except that you open your lower jaw as far as it can comfortably open.

Chin Tuck

Next, try the chin tuck stretch. WebMD says that the best way to execute this stretch is to

  • Start from a standing position with your shoulders back and chest lifted up. 
  • Bring your head straight back, tucking in your chin as you do so.
  • Keep your head straight throughout this motion. 
  • Hold this motion for three seconds at a time and repeat it up to 10 times. 

Tongue Up

Perhaps the easiest exercise for TMJ is called the “tongue up” stretch. To do this

  • Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth and hold it there throughout the following.
  • Let your bottom jaw drop as far as it will go until you feel a gentle stretch.
  • Close your mouth.
  • Open your mouth again.
  • Repeat this up to 10 times.

Mandibular Stabilization Exercise

A doctor shows the location of TMJ

TMJ patients often experience a misalignment of their jaw. This exercise will help with that. It generally involves putting your thumb under your chin and moving your jaw from side to side very gently. WebMD describes the stretch as follows:

  • Start with the jaw in a neutral, relaxed position. 
  • Hold your thumb to the base of the jaw, just below the chin, and apply gentle pressure as you open your mouth. 
  • Repeat the motion, moving your thumb to the left and right sides of the jaw respectively.
  • Try this exercise at least five times, five times daily. 

It’s important to remember that exercises for TMJ pain relief, though effective, work best when combined with professional care from a specially trained dentist, like the TMJ specialists at Perfect White Smile. Our comprehensive TMJ treatment can help relieve your pain and keep it from coming back. With a range of treatment methods that include relaxation, a dental splint such as a mouthguard, and a realignment of your natural bite, Perfect White Smile can help get you feeling like yourself again.

Looking for more help with TMJ? Learn more about our treatment options here.

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