Stressing in your sleep? Grinding your teeth? Whether you notice it or not, many of us are prone to jaw tension. You don’t need to hear it from me; we’re becoming busier than ever before. So naturally, more stress is inevitable.
It can be painful and affect your entire body. If you have jaw tension, you might feel pain, aches, and soreness in your head, neck, jaw, ears, teeth, and face. Now that’s a lot of tension!
These feelings can range from moderate to severe and can impact your ability to focus and be productive.
In some cases, jaw tension can be treated at home. It could also signal that you have a more serious underlying problem that requires medical attention.
What Causes Jaw Tension?
While there may be multiple factors, here are some things that could be causing your jaw tension.
It’s extremely common to clench your teeth when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. You might not even realize you’re doing it. Because you’re more likely to grind your teeth at night when you’re asleep, it can be difficult to identify this as the cause of your jaw pain.
After a while, you’ll start to feel the results in your jaw as tightness and pain that gets worse when you talk or eat. You might also feel the tension in your neck and face as a result of clenching and grinding your teeth out of stress.
2. Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD or TMJD)
TMJ is the joint that attaches your jaw to your lower skull. You can get a TMJ disorder (referred to as TMD or TMJD) from grinding your teeth, clenching your teeth for long periods of time, a physical injury, or after an infection. The symptoms include jaw pain, jaw tension, headaches, and a popping sound when you open your jaw to talk or eat.
TMJ disorders can usually be treated with at-home care, but talk to a doctor if you have concerns.
3. Excessive chewing
If you love chewing gum all day long, you might end up feeling tension and pain in your jaw as a result.
One of the symptoms of Tetanus is feeling painful contractions in your jaw. Other symptoms include trouble swallowing and feeling stiffness in your abdomen. It is important to see a doctor if you think you may have Tetanus as it can become serious quickly.
5. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Up to 80 percent of all people who have RA experience TMJ, which includes feeling pain and tension in their jaw. RA can also damage the jaw tissue, resulting in pain in the jaw area.
6. Osteoarthritis (OA)
OA usually affects the hips, hands, and knees. It can also occur in the jaw, causing pain to radiate in the jaw and surrounding area.
7. Teeth grinding
Officially known as bruxism, teeth grinding is common among adults who are stressed. You might grind your teeth at night or during the day without even realizing it. This can make your face, neck, and head feel sore and achy. You might also get earaches or headaches.
How to Relieve Jaw Tension
Try these at-home remedies to relieve jaw pain and tension in the side of your face. Talk to your doctor or dentist if you’re experiencing severe pain, have trouble opening your mouth, have difficulty swallowing, or have headaches and other painful symptoms that interfere with your daily life.
1. Jaw joint stretch
This exercise will stretch your jaw and neck muscles. As a bonus, you can do it from anywhere!
With your mouth closed, press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Keep it behind your front teeth, but don’t touch them. Apply a little pressure with your tongue. Next, slowly open your mouth as wide as it will allow, stopping when it feels uncomfortable. Now, slowly shut your mouth. Repeat 10 times, and stop if you feel any pain.
2. Jaw-opening exercise
This manual exercise will help you open your jaw.
Warm-up by opening and closing your mouth several times. Next, put your index finger horizontally on top of your front bottom teeth. Start to pull your teeth down slowly until you feel some discomfort on your jaw. Hold this for 30 seconds before slowly releasing your jaw back to start. Repeat three times, working your way up to repeat 12 times.
3. Consider a mouthguard
If you grind your teeth at night or have a joint disorder, your dentist may recommend a mouthguard. Mouthguards keep your top and bottom teeth from touching, which can eliminate grinding or clenching your teeth. You should notice a difference in how your jaw feels, plus you’ll save your teeth from becoming worn down.
TMJ patients may need a particular type of mouthguard, called a splint. Splints hold your jaw in the correct position and take the pressure off your jaw joint.
You don’t need a fancy spa to benefit from a jaw massage. One of the best ways you can relieve jaw tension is to simply open your mouth and rub the muscles next to your ears (where your temporomandibular joints are located) in a gentle circular motion. You can do this anytime you start feeling tension, whether you’re at work or getting ready to go to sleep.
5. Adjust your diet
Stick to foods that are soft and easy to eat when you’re dealing with jaw tension. These can include yogurt, soup, smoothies, and tofu. Avoid eating foods that are super chewy and stop chewing gum while your jaw is healing. You’ll also want to avoid foods that are difficult to chew, like steak, nuts, and raw vegetables, as these can overtax your jaw and cause additional pain.
Stress is one of the leading causes of jaw tension. It’s also a part of life. Although it might be impossible to avoid stress, you can control how you react to it. Instead of holding your stress inside, take steps on how to relieve jaw tension, so you don’t wind up bottling it up inside and hurting yourself by clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth.
Go for a lunchtime walk, spend a few minutes meditating, do some yoga, or practice deep breathing exercises when you start to notice your body tensing up from stress. Just a few minutes of mindful practice can reduce your stress and prevent jaw tension.