5 Causes of a Jaw Tension and Our Tips to Relieve the Pain
You may not realize it, but there are many possible factors that could contribute to a tight jaw. That’s not all, your jaw tension could be putting pressure on other parts of your body, too. The pain can range from a minor nuisance to a throbbing, severe ache that nothing seems to dull. What’s even worse is our jaw helps us do so many things – chewing, talking, yawning, making facial expressions, etc. So, how are we supposed to just ignore it? We’re going to take you through 5 causes of jaw tension and our tips to relieve the pain so you can carry on with your busy day.
We’re going to start with the most obvious one – stress. Stress can wreak havoc on every part of your body. It can leave you thinking that there is terribly wrong with you physically only to find out that your state of mind to blame. Messed up, right? You may be jaw clenching during the day or even when you sleep without realizing it, causing tension to mandible. 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, a parafunctional habit to which stress is a major contributing factor. But 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, though, which is a little more difficult to put a stop to.
Bruxism can also be caused by recreational party drugs like MDMA or stimulants like amphetamine, cocaine, and even caffeine. This happens because these drugs increase muscle tension. Usually, this occurs only when the person is taking the drug but it can become a chronic problem with frequent drug use.
3. Temporomandibular Joint disorder (TMJ)
Jaw tension is a huge 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, acting like 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 mouth. These things are understandably painful. 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. This is when the symptoms last longer than three months.
4. Excessive chewing
Did you know that excessive chewing can actually cause jaw tension? This is a cause that’s completely self-inflicted, and usually comes from excessively chewing gum or any other sticky substance.
5. Misaligned teeth
Unfortunately, this is something else that you aren’t really able to prevent. Why does our body like to mess with us so much? You may have misaligned teeth, which means that when you bite, your teeth are not lined up with each other. Your dentist may have told you this in the past if you haven’t had braces by telling you that you have either an overbite or an underbite. This is generally an issue that orthodontists try to correct with braces and/or a retainer whether or not you have jaw tension.
Relieving the pain
There are definitely some easy, at-home remedies to temporarily relieve the pain of jaw tension. However, you should see a doctor or dentist to get to the root of the issue so you can work on getting permanent relief. In the meantime, here are some of our tips to quickly relieve the pain that comes with jaw tension.
There are actually a few massage techniques you can use to help relieve your jaw tension, especially if it’s caused by TMJ. Due to the fact that TMJ may very well affect your teeth, Colgate has detailed three ways to effectively massage your jaw to relieve some of that tension. This may be in the way of a kneading, friction or stretching massage, which are all outlined in detail here.
2. Mouth guard
A mouth guard worn at night can alleviate some of the symptoms of clenching or grinding your teeth, including jaw tension. While there are a ton of over the counter mouthguards available, your dentist may opt to make you a custom one. This will be considerably more expensive but will be more tailored to your specific issue. There is a separate kind of mouth guard for those with TMJ which is referred to as a splint. These are usually custom made as they are meant to 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 but talk to your dentist about that.
3. Hot and cold compresses
Hot and cold compresses when alternated or on their own will certainly help with some immediate relief of jaw tension and jaw pain. Heat compresses increase blood flow and reduce stiffness as well as providing a comforting sensation. Cold compresses reduce swelling and inflammation and help soothe the pain. Apply either of these to your jaw and experience some immediate pain relief.
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 in the search to get to the root of your jaw tension and given you some new ideas to relieve the pain. It’s important to talk to your doctor or dentist if the pain persists. After all, nobody’s got time for jaw tension with all the smiling, talking and chewing you have to do!