Exercises to stop jaw clenching
Did you know that bruxism (that’s teeth-grinding and jaw clenching) is on the rise? Not only does this cause wear and tear on our teeth, but this common habit is also linked to migraines, poor posture and face, neck and jaw pain.
Wearing a mouth guard at night is one solution to protect the teeth, but it won’t stop jaw clenching. Botox can be a highly effective treatment, but can be costly and doesn’t appeal to everyone.
We chat to leading remedial face and jaw therapist, Lynn Rae, who explains the simple and natural exercises we can do at home to stop jaw clenching.
Root through the floor
When standing or sitting, be aware of rooting the feet through the floor and rising up through the crown of the head (it helps to imagine resting a weight on the head) as if a tree. This helps to centre the body, ironing out simple tilts and shifts, and lifts the head out of the neck.
Lift up through the crown
Visualise the space inside the head and create a strong centre by lifting up through the crown, creating space between the skull and upper vertebra. Imagine the point of the chin is heavy and relaxed, opposite the lifted crown. Then you can visualise the eyes, cheeks, ears and corners of the mouth lifting and widening in an upwards and diagonal direction.
Find your secret smile
The optimum position for the resting jaw is soft eyes and a secret, inner smile. Keep the tongue resting (softly, not pressing) on the upper palate, wide and flat behind the ridge, lips together and teeth slightly apart. Breathe through your nose.
Soften the palate
Visualise the palate (roof of mouth) softening and widening as it relaxes and spreads out to all corners inside of the head (think three-dimensionally). It becomes the shape of a secret smile. Creating this vision not only softens and widens the face but also creates a platform upon which to rest the tongue. Creating the internal smile can reach the outer corners of the eyes and creates a calmer, happier feeling too.
Exercise the eyes
Slowly move the eyes from left to right, then diagonally. Take time to feel the stretch of the muscles as you reach full range. Trace the upper semi-circle of the eye sockets. Repeat each movement six to 10 times. This helps to relax and de-stress the uppermost jaw area.
Look out of the window
Exercise your peripheral vision as often as possible, and look up from the computer and out of the window. When walking, look ahead and try to take in as much as possible with your peripheral vision.
Learn to cluck!
Clucking repeatedly helps to strengthen the tongue while also familiarising it with the upper palate.
Think of saying the letter ‘N’ out loud. Place two-thirds of your tongue on the palate and say ‘NNNNNNNNNNN’ as you press. Hold for five seconds at a time.
Train your tongue
Hold the tongue in the following positions for 10 seconds at a time. Try to touch the chin, the nose, back of the lower left teeth, then right teeth, taking care to keep the face relaxed (engage your secret smile).
Stick your tongue out
Move your tongue from side to side 20 times, taking care not to let the head move forward.
Find the roof of your mouth
Place the tip of the tongue onto the roof of the mouth and gently drag it along the roof as far back as it will go. Take care not to press too hard and cause tension under the chin. Repeat 10 times.
Build new habits
Place the tip of the tongue on the clucking/N spot on the palate and keep it in place while opening and closing the mouth. This helps to build a new muscle memory and let go of old habits, leading towards an optimum alignment as built-up tension begins to release.
Release tension through swallowing
Place the tongue, wide and flat, behind the N spot on the roof of the mouth. Aim to keep it there while swallowing water. It helps to put on a goofy smile or think of NNNNNN. Make sure you are in good postural alignment while swallowing. Practice when drinking water so that over time it becomes more normal.
Strengthening the lip seal
Smack the lips
Smack the lips together 20 times, repeating regularly.
Keeping the lips together, press the tongue on the inside of the lips and circle in alternating directions, up to 10 times.
Relax tension of the mouth and lip muscle
Puff your cheeks
Blow out the cheeks and hold the tension for 10 to 30 seconds. Transfer the air from left to right, including the area around the mouth. Continue until fatigued. This can be done with water as a variation and is an excellent internal cheek relaxer.
Remember to smile!
Cover the teeth with the lips and form a large ‘O’, moving to a wide smile. Move between the two shapes, making sure the teeth remain covered. Hold the smile for a few seconds.
TMJ Therapy® was developed by Tracey Kiernan in 2000, and is the result of over 20 years of experience.