Do you ever catch yourself clenching your jaw? What about experiencing a tight and sore jaw while you are chewing? Have you found yourself waking up with a headache or sore facial muscles? If so, you might be clenching your jaw at night in your sleep and not even realize it. You may be asking yourself, “but why do I clench my jaw?” Jaw tightness can be the result of stress or anxiety, bruxism (teeth grinding), excessive chewing, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders and more.
Let’s be honest – it’s been a stressful year. Between virtual schooling for your kids, working from home and following other restrictions and mandates, you might be feeling anxious and stressed out. Now that you know stress can lead to jaw clenching and teeth grinding, you probably want to know how they are bad for your jaw and teeth? Clenching and grinding can cause your facial muscles to tighten up or lead to cracks and wear on your teeth. They can also lead to tooth sensitivity and more serious dental problems.
The good news is there are simple ways to destress and alleviate jaw clenching and grinding of your teeth.
Jaw joint stretches and facial exercises not only help relieve tightness in the jaw, but can also increase range of motion. Try these exercises:
Jaw Joint Stretch: Relax your jaw by resting the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth and lowering the bottom part of your jaw, so that your lower teeth move away from your upper teeth. This exercise will help you stretch and relieve muscle tightness in your jaw and neck.
Manual Jaw Opening: Slightly open and close your mouth several times. Next, place your fingers on the top of your front bottom teeth and slowly pull down and hold this position for 30 seconds. You should feel a slight discomfort on the tight side of your jaw.
Repeat this stretch three more times and slowly work up to twelve repetitions.
Smile Stretch: Without feeling tightness or pain, give your widest smile you can while looking in a mirror. While smiling, slowly open your jaw an extra couple of centimeters while inhaling deeply through your mouth and exhaling while letting go of the smile. Repeat this process ten times to help eliminate stress in your facial muscles, jaw and neck.
Chin Tucks: While your back is against a wall or you are standing up straight with your shoulders back and your chest up, pull your chin towards the wall. You are essentially making yourself have a ‘double chin’ on purpose. Hold this position for three to five seconds and repeat this process a couple of times a day.
Smiles By Stevens Solutions
Here at Smiles By Stevens, if you find yourself clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth, we have solutions. We want to help you stop the wear process of your teeth from grinding and clenching with a custom fitted night guard. Such an appliance will help deprogram your jaw muscles from clenching and grinding, which will help protect your teeth and prevent jaw discomforts.
In conjunction with all of the latest equipment, dental technology and materials, the staff at Smiles By Stevens offers a variety of dental services. Named one of Pennsylvania’s Top 20 Dentists for several years in a row, Dr. Shea F. Stevens is here to serve and protect the teeth of his Lancaster PA patients.
Whether you’re in pain from stress-clenching your jaw or just in need of a bi-annual cleaning, contact us today at (717) 581-0123.