I went to see my dentist recently. We (well, mostly she, because my mouth was occupied) chatted while she worked and she mentioned that the no.1 thing she did in 2020 was make mouth guards for her patients to relieve jaw pain and help them stop grinding their teeth. It seemed to be caused by the extra stress everyone was feeling while we were all in lockdown, working from home, home-schooling our kids and worrying about the state of the world.
I used to clench my teeth during sleep but was able to stop it and save my teeth by using some simple techniques to reduce the tension in my jaw joint and muscles.
In case this helps you or someone you know, here’s how to do it:
General muscle tension release:
When you hold a lot of tension in your jaw, it will feel really tight and possibly sore in the strong chewing muscles at either side of your face, from your cheekbones just below your eyes down to the jaw bone below your lower teeth. It might also hurt around your jaw joints just in front of your ears. To give these muscles a rest, first place your palms on your cheeks with fingers pointing upwards along the sides of your head. Support your jaw bone with the base of your palms and press very gently upwards to allow your cheeks to soften under your hands. Close your eyes and breathe slowly for a minute or more.
3-Step Release for Jaw Joint:
- Next, hold your lower jaw bone lightly with your fingertips either side of your chin and gently press your jaw slightly to one side and then the other, noting which side feels better, moves more easily or feels more comfortable. Then move it to the side that felt better and hold it there for 5-10 seconds before allowing it to return to a neutral position.
- Then, with your fingertips lightly on your jaw bone again, this time slightly slide it forwards (as if jutting your chin out), then back (towards your neck), again noting which feels better. Then hold it gently in that preferred position for 5-10 seconds before letting it return to neutral.
- Now use your fingertips on the sides of your jaw bone to guide your mouth open a little way, then guide it closed, noting which felt better. Then hold it gently in that easier or better position for 5-10 seconds.
Your jaw muscles are super strong and work really hard, plus we often hold tension there when we’re stress, angry or tired. So it’s really important to work gently with them – if you push too hard in the movements shown here, it can just overwork these muscles even more. If you go gently and breathe slowly, you’ll notice your whole body relaxing. Use these as often as you like, but they’re especially useful first thing in the morning if you wake with jaw pain or tension, and again before you go to sleep at night to reduce the build-up of tension.
Did this help you? Let me know in the comments below.