A list of short, simple exercises you can do if you are feeling physically and mentally tense, plus an exercise to help prevent daytime bruxing.
It is recommended for people with daytime bruxism to practise a new habit which impairs clenching when you are not speaking or eating. Put the tip of your tongue at the top of your mouth, very close to your front teeth, as if you are about to say “nnnn”. This prevents your jaws clenching.
Keeping your teeth apart
Experts recommend keeping your teeth apart, even when your mouth is closed. This activity helps the muscles of your jaw relax, and has been known to have helped many people. Dental guards can assist with this process, even when only worn at night.
If you feel that your jaw muscles are cramped or contracted, yawn a few times in order to stretch those muscles.
If you are still in pain, try a jaw joint massage: press gently with your fingertips on the muscles of your jaw joint and make small circles. Do not clench your teeth while you are doing this. One very effective way to do this massage is in the shower with warm water running on the sensitive areas, while you massage the area gently.
Thumb massage (Chinese healing technique)
One point of your face that can help reduce tension and pressure in the facial muscles is the point between your eyebrows. Press on it with your thumb and do nine circles clockwise.
In order to diminish tension and relax the jaw area, you may find that some warming, stimulating oil such as cinnamon, rosemary or lavender oil, soothes and numbs. Dip your fingertips in the oil and gently massage your cheeks and jaw. You can also do this by tapping lightly on your cheeks and jaw with your fingertips.
For further pain relief, soak a facecloth in warm to hot water. Wring it out, and hold it against your TMJ (jaw) joints until it has cooled. It’s best to do this exercise before bed. You should hold the facecloth on the area that normally hurts when you wake up, in order to relax those muscles and prevent morning pain.
This exercise can be done standing or sitting, as long as you are positioned comfortably. Start moving your shoulder upwards, and from there continue by rolling it backwards (as shown in the picture). It is important to complete a circular motion. Do this exercise one shoulder at a time, repeat each shoulder a few times until your shoulders feel more relaxed.
This exercise should be performed slowly and gently. You can do this exercise sitting or standing. As you count to 10, start bringing your chin slowly towards your chest, so that your chin is down when you reach 10 (as shown in figure 1). Stay in this position for a few seconds as you feel your neck stretch. Start moving your head again slowly upwards and finish this motion as you are looking upwards and you can feel your neck stretch (as shown in figure 2). Don’t tilt your neck backwards, just look upwards. Stay in this position for a few seconds. Repeat this exercise a few times. If you feel any level of pain, stop this exercise immediately. This exercise can be done moving your head side to side as well (ear to shoulder).
More neck exercises:
In some cases, acupuncture was reported to be helpful in the treatment of bruxism and TMJ. Even though so far it is not a scientifically proven method, some patients report that they felt relieved after a small number of treatments.
TMJ relief exercises
1. Tooth Grinding and Sleep Disorder. (2007). In Dr Yang. Retrieved October 1, 2008, from http://www.dryang.co.il/Magazine/ArticleSingle.aspx?artID=160 [With the kind help of translation services]