Stress can have a variety of physical and emotional effects, and one of the ways stress can manifest itself is in the jaws. Stress can tighten the muscles in the jaw area and lead to various symptoms and consequences.
Some people think they can relax just fine. They focus on their body, especially the arms and legs and breathing.
However, stress also often gets stuck in your jaws. Sometimes even only at night! You think you are relaxed, yet there is stress that expresses itself in a certain way. As a result, the stress in your sleep continues to work.
In this article, we look at that often hidden stress and tension that settles in your jaws.
In what ways can stress in your jaw cause problems?
1. Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Stress can cause people to unconsciously clench and grind their teeth, especially at night while sleeping. This can lead to tooth enamel wear, sensitive teeth, jaw pain and muscle tension in the jaw area. Clamping the molars together can even be accompanied by considerable force, which can cause a crack in a molar. Sometimes you do not have any problems yourself, but the dentist detects the beginning of damage.
2. Jaw pain and TMJ disorder
TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. Stress can lead to overtightening of the muscles of mastication, which can result in pain, stiffness and limited movement of the jaw. This is also referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder).
Tension in the jaws can also cause headaches. The pain can spread to the temples, forehead and neck.
4. Facial and ear pain
The muscle tension in the jaw can spread to other parts of the face and even to the ears. This can lead to pain, ear pain, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and dizziness.
5. Jaw dislocation
Severe stress and tension can dislocate the temporomandibular joint, leading to acute jaw pain and limited movement of the jaw. This usually requires medical attention to return the jaw to its proper position.
Tips to relax your jaw
There are several measures you can take to prevent jaw tension and relax your jaw. Here are some suggestions:
1. Address causes of stress
Since stress is a major cause of jaw tension, it is important to reduce stress. Of course that is not always possible, but it is still good to be aware of what stress does to you and whether you can regulate it.
Read also: sleeping problems due to stress
2. Warming jaws
Apply heat to the jaw area by using a warm compress or towel. This can help relax the muscles.
3. Avoid chewing hard foods and gum
Excessive chewing on hard foods or gum can put extra strain on the jaw muscles. Try to eat soft foods and at least avoid chewing gum.
4. Do relaxation exercises for the jaw
Try to perform relaxation exercises for the jaw muscles regularly. This may include gentle massage of the jaw muscles with your fingertips in circular motions, gentle stretching of the jaw by opening and closing your mouth, and gently moving the jaw sideways. Stick out your tongue several times a day (wait for the right moment 😉) and make chewing movements without food in your mouth.
You can also do breathing exercises, where you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
5. Avoid jaw tension during the day
Be aware of any jaw tension during the day and try to relax your jaw and facial muscles. Don’t clench your teeth and relax your jaw by gently resting your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
6. Relax your face when you go to sleep
When you’re in bed, be aware of your face. Do you subconsciously still keep your face in a certain position or grimace? Let go of everything, immediately notice the difference. Repeat that over and over, because once you suffer from this, you will quickly tighten your face and jaws again under tension. It can become a habit.
A cheap solution for the night can be a mouthguard that prevents clenching and grinding of your teeth.
You can buy such a bit here.
7. Consult a professional
If the jaw tension persists or causes serious complaints, it is advisable to consult a dentist or a doctor who specializes in jaw disorders. They can make a diagnosis and recommend possible treatment options, such as jaw physiotherapy, wearing braces at night to prevent teeth grinding, or other appropriate measures.
It is always important to seek a professional medical opinion if you experience persistent jaw pain so that a proper diagnosis and treatment can be made based on your specific situation.
Stress is not always the cause of jaw problems!
It is important to know that the symptoms of jaw stress are not only caused by stress. Other factors, such as dental problems, sleep disorders, or other medical conditions, can cause similar symptoms. If you suffer from persistent jaw problems, it is advisable to consult a dentist or doctor for a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Reliable sources about jaw problems and stress:
Together with Vanessa I am the owner of this website Good food Healthy living. I myself struggled with my health and weight for a while and I was looking for more information. Actually, this website started as a great search for what could be right for me. How could I feel healthier and fitter? I’ve been reading a lot about this. Vanessa already knew a lot about nutrition and often told me about it. We thought it was fun to share, that’s why we started this blog. This website is our passion. All information is supplementary, not a replacement for regular medicine!