It’s not unusual to experience jaw tightness or a stiff jaw every once in a while, but if you’re getting a jaw tightness and pain too often, it could be a warning sign that you’re at risk for TMJ. Here’s how to address the problem to help prevent your normal jaw problem from developing into TMJ.
De-Stress to Relieve Jaw Tightness
Stress-related clenching of the jaw can contribute to jaw pain and damage, but it’s also one of the easier problems to address. Try to keep life in perspective and avoid getting stressed about things that don’t matter. This will reduce the number of stressors in your life.
If you still feel stress, try to learn some relaxation techniques. There are many of these available, so you should be able to find one that works for you.
If you can’t manage to relax on your own, consider talking to your doctor or psychologist to determine whether you might have an anxiety disorder.
Quit Habits That Contribute to Jaw Pain and Stiff Jaw
There are many common habits that can make jaw pain worse. One of these is gum chewing, which can put enormous amounts of stress on your jaw, depending on how long you chew gum each day.
Chewing on nonfood items hurts, too, with the most common culprits being fingernails, pens, pencils, and other items commonly available at your desk.
Smoking and other tobacco use contribute to TMJ, although the mechanism isn’t fully understood. It’s likely related to circulation problems, similar to the way smoking can lead to tooth loss and impair bone healing around dental implants.
Jaw Feels Tight? Use Stretches and Massage
Although too much jaw movement can contribute to soreness, you can also get sore if you don’t regularly exercise your jaw muscles. Eat a varied diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables to make sure you’re exercising your jaw regularly.
You should also consider a home massage if your jaw feels tight. These are easily found online and are generally harmless, so they’re worth a try. Stretches and massage can help your stiff jaw feel less tight which can prevent pain and lock-jaw down the line.
Why Is My Jaw Tight? Is It TMJ?
Of course, you have to consider whether your jaw tightness is actually due to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD). The best way to determine this is to talk to a neuromuscular dentist about the problem.
Also, be on the lookout for other symptoms that may go along with TMJ:
- Jaw popping or clicking
- Irregular jaw motions
- Ringing or full feeling in the ears
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Neck pain or back pain
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers
If you have these symptoms, it’s important to schedule an appointment to discuss the problem.