Managing your Jaw System During Disfunction 

  1. Awareness of habits or jaw use patterns
    • The teeth are supposed to make contact during eating and swallowing but at no
    • other time. When the jaw is not working during eating, swallowing, yawning and talking the teeth should be apart and the jaw should be at rest.
    • Notice any contact your teeth make.
    • Notice any positions your jaw continually returns to.
    • Notice any clenching, grinding, gritting, tapping of teeth or tensing of jaw
    • muscles.
    • Notice when these tooth contacts or the jaw muscle tensing most often occurs such as during driving, studying, reading, social situations, conversation, fatigue, overwork, stress, emotional upsets, work, sports.
    • Be aware of whether you are able to eat on both sides.
  2. Positioning of the jaw to avoid tooth contacting habits
    • Place the tip of the tongue just behind the top front teeth and keep the teeth slightly apart.
    • Maintain this position whenever the jaw is not being used.
  3. Diet Modifications
    • Softer foods place less stress on the jaw muscles and joints than coarser foods
    • Avoid eating coarse, hard foods that require you to bite into them with the front teeth such as apples or sandwiches. Cut these foods up into small pieces and eat them on the back teeth.
    • Do not chew gum or soft chewy foods that require excessive jaw movements.
  4. Avoid Wide jaw openings
    • Excessive movements of the jaw will place stress on the joint and the muscles.
  5. DO NOT TEST THE JAW!
    • You may want to periodically move your jaw around to check whether you are making progress and see if the soreness is resolving. To do this, people usually open and swing the jaw from side to side beyond the comfortable range of motion. When you move your jaw to the point where you produce pain and discomfort, you have added to the stress on your muscles and joints and this can cause continuation of the problems you are trying to eliminate.
  6. Sleep Patterns
    • Avoid sleeping on your stomach which places the jaw in a position where considerable pressure is placed upon it. Propping pillows beside you may be helpful in avoiding unconsciously moving onto your stomach. This can be a difficult pattern to break.
    • Avoid sleeping positions where the jaw is rested upon a hand or arm which also applies considerable pressure to the jaw.
  7. Support the jaw during yawning
    • Place your index finger and thumb on your chin to provide some extra stability to the lower jaw during yawning.
  8. Incidental
    • Avoid leaning on your chin or jaw at any time. This even applies to posturing your head to press a telephone against your shoulder.
    • There can be an infinite number of factors contributing to jaw dysfunction. It is easily possible that this guide has overlooked a factor that is important in your problem. Please advise us of anything that you think may be contributing. Your input is important.
  9. Use moist heat to the sides of the face
    • Place two towels in hot water.
    • Wrap one under the chin, on both sides of the face extending along the sides of the head.
    • Alternate towels as the one applied to the head looses it’s heat.
    • Do this at least twice per day 10 minutes each time.
    • OR:  – place enough hot water in a hot water bottle to permit flexible placement of the hot water bottle. Squeeze out any air to ensure best heat transfer.
    • Wrap the hot water bottle in a moist towel.
    • Place the hot water bottle (plus towel) against one side of the face extending from the chin up to the side of the head.
    • Alternate to the other side after ten minutes (or as long as twenty minutes if possible)
  10. General Recommendation
    • Get adequate sleep.
    • Maintain good nutrition.
    • Try to avoid taking on additional stressful commitments that you may adversely effect your present problem or that would infringe on your ability to manage your jaw problem.