young adult woman holding her jawYou might not need professional care if you suffer from the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (called either TMJ or TMD). In fact, most cases of TMJ resolve on their own without professional treatment.

When you first notice TMJ symptoms, it’s not a bad idea to try home care. Among the home care options, you can utilize TMJ exercises. On our website, we provide our Lee’s Summit patients with brief instructional videos on these exercises. Here we’ll give a brief rundown on the exercises and help you understand how to employ them as part of your TMJ home care strategy.

Why Use TMJ Exercises

TMJ exercises are proven to be effective in improving symptoms of TMJ. Depending on the nature of your TMJ, they might even be more effective than a mouth guard. So it’s not a bad idea to try them first.

If you properly utilize TMJ exercises, you might see improvement in:

  • Mouth opening
  • Pain
  • Jaw function
  • Jaw noises (like popping or clicking)
  • Jaw relaxation

Difficulty opening your mouth is a common symptom of TMJ, but jaw exercises can effectively loosen your mouth so that it’s easier to open your jaw wider. In addition, jaw exercises can reduce jaw muscle pain. It strengthens your jaw muscles, so they are less likely to develop pain. Having stronger jaw muscles can improve your jaw function, helping you to bite and chew more effectively. Stronger jaw muscles can also be more effective at holding your jaw in proper alignment (assuming there hasn’t been too much damage to the jaw joints), so you experience less popping and clicking.

Plus, this is a simple treatment approach that you can do at home with no additional tools or equipment. It works well in support of other home treatments. If you follow instructions and are vigilant about the effects of the exercises, there is also a very low risk of complications related to these exercises.

However, if you do experience any worsening symptoms, including pain, stop doing exercises and schedule an appointment with a Lee’s Summit TMJ dentist.

How to Do TMJ Exercises

We recommend several TMJ exercises, including:

  • Masseter muscle release
  • Protrusive exercise
  • Tongue at the roof of the mouth exercise
  • Tongue depressor exercise
  • Tongue sweep exercise

We include a brief explanation of each exercise, along with a link to an explanatory video for each exercise. If you’d prefer, you can go directly to our TMJ exercises page to see all the videos.

Masseter Muscle Release

Slide your index finger between your teeth and cheek on the same side as the hand, reaching backward until you encounter bone. Slide your finger outward, holding the tissue between your finger and thumb. Move your finger up and down until you encounter a sore spot. Hold the sore spot for about 60 seconds. Do this as necessary for pain relief.

Watch the Masseter Release Exercise Video.

Protrusive Exercise

This exercise is intended to help your jaw have better movement.

In this exercise, you push your lower jaw out nearly as far as it will go, then hold for five seconds. Do this about 20 times per day.

Watch the Protrusive Exercise Video.

Tongue at the Roof of Mouth Exercise

This exercise is intended to improve the mobility of your jaw.

Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your upper teeth. Then open your mouth as wide as you can. Hold this position for five seconds. Do this exercise 20 times a day.

Watch the Tongue at the Roof of Mouth Exercise Video.

Tongue Depressor Exercise

The goal of this exercise is to reduce jaw joint noises and discomfort as well as improve your range of motion.

Place a tongue depressor (or clean popsicle stick) and place it between your upper and lower front teeth. Move your lower jaw forward as much as possible while holding the ends of the stick. Slide your jaw to the right. Apply light pressure to the stick and pull down, opening your jaw. Close your jaw and repeat the exercise going to the left this time.

Add a second stick and repeat in both directions. Perform this exercise with increasing numbers of sticks until you reach five sticks.

Watch the Tongue Depressor Exercise Video.

Tongue Sweep Exercise

The goal of this exercise is to reduce intraoral muscle fatigue and tenderness. Place the tip of your tongue under the lip at the midline of your teeth. Move your tongue on the right side of the front of your mouth three times. Then place your tongue in the center of your right cheek. Move your tongue in three clockwise circles, then three counterclockwise circles.

Complete these sets three times daily.

Watch the Tongue Sweep Exercise Video.

When to Do TMJ Exercises

You should ideally do TMJ exercises when instructed by your doctor or TMJ dentist in Lee’s Summit. However, some people might try these as part of their TMJ home care routine. If you do these exercises at home on your own, you should stop if:

  • Pain increases
  • Mobility decreases
  • Popping or clicking increases
  • Other TMJ symptoms worsen
  • TMJ symptoms persist for more than seven days
  • TMJ symptoms stop, then return

These are potential signs that your TMJ needs professional care. It’s time to stop home care and see a TMJ dentist in Lee’s Summit for a professional evaluation of your symptoms. Postponing treatment for TMJ can, in some cases, lead to jaw joint damage and may make it harder for you to relieve symptoms without invasive treatment.

TMJ Treatment in Lee’s Summit

If you have TMJ symptoms that aren’t resolved under home care, it’s time to seek professional help. In Lee’s Summit, visit the Center for TMJ & Sleep Apnea, where we have two skilled and experienced dentists as well as outstanding support staff to help you get relief from your symptoms.

Please call (816) 795-1000 or use our online form to request an appointment at the Center for TMJ & Sleep Apnea, serving patients from our Lee’s Summit office near the 83rd St. Exit (Exit 11) from 470.