Overcoming jaw pain is not easy. Often, jaw pain or jaw locking is caused by the temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ). Many people get relief from jaw pain by snapping the jaw joint, but there are also those who treat it with stretching and massage. In addition, you can prevent pain by changing your lifestyle and being aware of the behaviors that make the problem worse. Although jaw pain can be managed without professional therapy, you should consult a doctor if your jaw is very painful or locked in a certain position.
Relieving Pain by Cracking the Jaw
Relax the jaw muscles. Some people get rid of TMJ or other jaw problems by clicking their jaw. For that, relax the jaw muscles and let the jaw hang so that the mouth is slightly open.
Clasp both palms at the jaw joint. Place both palms on the left and right sides of the face. Position your thumb and forefinger in a U-shape around your earlobe.
Press your palms against your jaw alternately. Press your palms against your jaw while slowly moving your jaw left and right. This movement aims to shake the jaw until you hear a snapping sound or return to its normal position.
Move your jaw in various directions. In addition to the side, you can move your jaw back and forth or up and down. Find out the most appropriate method for you because everyone’s jaw condition is different.
Stretching the Jaw Muscles
Observe the position of your jaw using a mirror. Stretching the jaw muscles can relieve pain. Start stretching by relaxing your jaw in a straight position, but don’t clench your teeth. Use a mirror to make sure your jaw is straight.
You may experience jaw muscle stiffness without realizing it. This usually causes the jaw to shift to one side.
When the mouth is closed in neutral, the lips should be closed, but the teeth should not touch each other.
Open your mouth as wide as possible as long as it’s comfortable. When you open your mouth, imagine your lower jaw moving down so that your mouth is wide open. At this point, you can feel the jaw muscles stretch, but there is no pain.
Do not overstretch the jaw muscles because the neck and jaw joints are small joints and can get irritated easily. So, you don’t have to open your mouth until it feels uncomfortable.
Hold this position for 5 seconds while looking up slowly. If the cheeks feel stiff, this exercise relaxes the muscles again when stretched while holding for a moment.
Close your mouth slowly. As you begin to close your mouth, lower your chin until you are looking straight ahead again. Keep your lower jaw relaxed and neutral while looking in the mirror.
Stretch your jaw muscles to the left. Slide your lower jaw as far to the left as possible as long as it feels comfortable without clenching your teeth. When shifting your jaw to the left, turn your head to the right. Sometimes, the top of your head feels stretched when you do this movement.
Hold for 5 seconds. Make sure you keep your gaze to the right while doing this stretch. The tip of the jaw on the other side may also feel tense.
Return the jaw to the center in a neutral state. After relaxing your jaw muscles, slowly close your mouth again and bring your lips together. Look straight ahead.
Stretch your jaw muscles to the right. Repeat the above movement, but this time to the opposite side. Make sure you’re looking to your left as you stretch and don’t clench your teeth.
Hold for 5 seconds. Relax your jaw muscles before returning to a neutral position.
Stretch in the same way. Once the jaw begins to feel stiff, do the above movement 3-5 times.
Changing Habits and Undergoing Therapy
Wear protective gear when sleeping at night. Often, jaw pain is caused by a habit of grinding teeth known as bruxism or tightening the muscles around the jaw during sleep. A dental guard—which must be made by a dentist—is a removable device to protect the surface of the teeth and gums at night. Wearing a dental guard at night helps relieve tension in the jaw so that pain is reduced.
Symptoms of bruxism can be detected from shortened, flat, loose, or cracked teeth, thinning tooth enamel, increased tooth sensitivity, headaches centered on the top of the head, pain that feels like an earache, and a curved tongue.
Check the condition of the jaw throughout the day. It’s not easy to train your brain to stop doing things that make your jaw pain worse, but it can be helpful in relieving pain, for example by being aware of each time you tighten your jaw. The brain can be trained so that it is able to realize that you are tightening your jaw by monitoring the condition of your jaw during daily activities.
For example, observe the state of your jaw whenever you open the door, close a website, or enter the restroom. Choose activities that are done repeatedly as a schedule to check the condition of the jaw.
Don’t open your mouth too wide. The jaw joint can shift if the mouth is opened too wide. Therefore, do not open your mouth wide when yawning, talking, or eating.
Avoid foods and sweets that have to be chewed for a long time. As much as possible, avoid eating foods that require a long period of chewing, such as chewing gum, sunflower seeds, chewy gum, and ice cubes.
Do jaw massage regularly. Jaw stretches and massages help relieve pain and relax jaw muscles. Therefore, make it a habit to massage your jaw every day before going to bed at night. If the jaw feels more painful than usual, do massage 2 times a day every morning and evening. When the pain is reduced, massage is enough to do once a day every night.
To massage the jaw, place the tips of your fingers under your jaw and pull them up while gently pressing the skin on your face. When the finger reaches the scalp, lift the finger from the head, then place it again under the jaw. Repeat this step for about 2 minutes.
Consult your GP or dentist if you have severe chronic pain. In general, massage and stretching make jaw pain go away on its own. However, you should consult a doctor if you experience severe chronic pain. Similarly, if you have difficulty swallowing food or feel pain when opening and closing your mouth. A dentist or general practitioner is able to diagnose TMJ and suggest the most appropriate therapy according to the patient’s condition.
Go to the hospital or emergency room (ER) if the jaw is locked. You should immediately seek help in a hospital or emergency room if the jaw is locked in an open or closed position. To overcome this, the doctor will perform anesthesia as needed and then return the jaw to its normal position.