You may not realize it, but a tight jaw can become much more than just a locked jaw. Jaw tension can affect other parts of the body, too. More importantly, jaw tension pain can range from a minor nuisance to a throbbing, severe ache that doesn't go away. Our jaw helps us do so many things – chew, talk, yawn and make facial expressions, for instance. It's impossible to simply ignore the pain. So, what can you do to alleviate it? We’re going to cover five causes of jaw tension and share a few tips for how to release jaw tension so you can have pain-free days.
We’re going to start with the most obvious one – stress. Stress can wreak havoc on every part of your body. Yes, all of that mental anguish can manifest physically. Messed up, right? Stress might cause you to clench your jaw throughout the day or even when you sleep without realizing it, causing tension. Stress can also cause you to grind your teeth, which puts an enormous amount of pressure on your jaw.
2. Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
The technical term for grinding your teeth is bruxism, which is a parafunctional habit that stress can trigger. Stress isn’t the only cause of bruxism. It can also be caused by genetics or dental problems. If you’re grinding your teeth when you’re awake, you at least have a fighting chance of catching yourself in the act and putting a stop to it. Odds are that you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep, so you won't be able to control it.
Bruxism can also stem from the use of recreational party drugs like MDMA or stimulants like amphetamines, cocaine, and even caffeine. This happens because these drugs increase muscle tension. Bruxism can become a chronic problem with frequent drug use.
3. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
Jaw tension is a major symptom of TMJ. There is a temporomandibular joint on each side of our jawbone. This joint connects your jaw to your skull on either side and acts as a hinge. Sometimes, these joints act up through no fault of our own. Jaw tension isn’t even the only symptom of TMJ. People with TMJ report a feeling of their jaw being locked, difficulty opening their jaw, and a clicking or popping sound when opening or closing their mouths. These things are understandably painful and irritating. Unfortunately, doctors have no idea what causes TMJ, but it’s usually temporary unless you’re extremely unlucky and have what is known as chronic TMJ. The condition becomes chronic when symptoms last longer than three months.
4. Excessive Chewing
Did you know that excessive chewing can actually cause jaw tension? Chomping on your favorite gum or chewy candy can lead to major tension and even some tenderness. If you're experiencing issues regularly, try to cut back on how much you chew. And if it's a nervous habit, find a new source of relief.
5. Misaligned Teeth
Unfortunately, this is something that you can't prevent. Why does our body like to mess with us so much?!? When you have misaligned teeth, your bite is not properly lined up. Misaligned teeth can put a strain on the jaw and muscles and increase the risk of breaking a tooth.
How to Release Jaw Tension Pain
There are definitely some easy, at-home remedies to temporarily relieve jaw tension pain. However, you should see a doctor or dentist for permanent relief. In the meantime, here are some tips to ease the pain that comes with jaw tension.
1. Massage Your Jaw Often
There are a few massage techniques you can use to help relieve your jaw tension, primarily if it’s caused by TMJ. Colgate has provided some pointers for effectively massaging your jaw to relieve some of that tension. You can find those tips outlined in detail here.
2. Wear a Mouth Guard
A mouth guard worn at night (also called a "night guard") can alleviate some of the symptoms of clenching or grinding your teeth, including jaw tension. While there are a ton of over-the-counter mouth guards available, your dentist can create one specific to your needs. Those with TMJ may use a version that's referred to as a "splint." Splints are usually custom made, and they help reduce the strain on your jawbone and the muscles surrounding it. In this case, you may have to wear the mouth guard 24 hours a day based on your dental treatment plan.
3. Apply Hot & Cold Compresses
Hot and cold compresses, when alternated or on their own, will provide some immediate relief of jaw tension and pain. Hot compresses increase blood flow and reduce stiffness, while providing a comforting sensation. Cold compresses help reduce swelling and inflammation and soothe the pain.
4. Stretch Your Jaw
Yes, you can stretch your jaw just like any other part of your body! You can do this using a method called a "smile stretch." Simply smile as wide as you can without feeling uncomfortable, avoiding tightness or pain. While still smiling, gradually open your jaw two more inches. Then, inhale deeply through your mouth and exhale while letting your face fall back to normal. You can repeat this up to ten times, which should alleviate some tension and tightness.
We hope that this article has helped you get to the root of your jaw tension and given you some new ideas for relieving the pain. It’s important to talk to your doctor or dentist if jaw tension pain persists. After all, nobody’s got time for jaw tension with all the smiling, talking and chewing you have to do!
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*These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Testimonials found at RaveAid.com are unverified results and may not reflect the typical purchaser’s experience, may not apply to the average person and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results.