How Myofunctional Therapy Alleviates Jaw Pain

Posted by Megan Van Noy on Jun 22 2024, 10:16 PM

Myofunctional therapy is a treatment that involves exercises and techniques to improve the function of the orofacial muscles. These muscles include the mouth, face, and neck, which play crucial roles in breathing, chewing, swallowing, and speech. The therapy aims to correct dysfunctional habits and muscle patterns that can contribute to various issues, including jaw pain. The orofacial muscles are interconnected with the jaw structures and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). When these muscles malfunction, they can place undue stress on the TMJ and surrounding tissues, leading to pain and dysfunction. Myofunctional therapy addresses these muscle imbalances to restore proper function and alleviate pain. 

Causes of Jaw Pain and TMJ Disorders

  • Habits such as mouth breathing, tongue thrusting, and improper swallowing can strain the jaw muscles and TMJ. 
  • Grinding or clenching the teeth, especially during sleep, can cause significant stress on the jaw joint and muscles. 
  • Malocclusion or misaligned teeth can lead to improper jaw alignment and muscle strain. 
  • Trauma to the jaw or face can damage the TMJ and surrounding muscles. 
  • Emotional stress can lead to muscle tension and exacerbate jaw pain. 

How Myofunctional Therapy Alleviates Jaw Pain

Correcting Poor Oral Habits

One of the primary goals of myofunctional therapy is to correct poor oral habits that contribute to jaw pain. For example, mouth breathing can lead to improper tongue posture and increased tension in the orofacial muscles. Myofunctional therapy teaches patients to breathe through their nose, which promotes proper tongue placement against the roof of the mouth. This simple change can reduce strain on the jaw muscles and TMJ

Improving Tongue Posture

Proper tongue posture is crucial for maintaining balance in the orofacial muscles. When not in use, the tongue should rest against the palate, just behind the upper front teeth. Many people with jaw pain have a low or forward tongue posture, which can contribute to muscle tension and misalignment. Myofunctional therapy includes exercises to retrain the tongue to rest correctly, thereby reducing strain on the jaw. 

Enhancing Swallowing Patterns

Improper swallowing patterns, such as tongue thrusting, can significantly stress the jaw muscles and TMJ. In tongue thrusting, the tongue pushes against the teeth during swallowing instead of the roof of the mouth. This can lead to misaligned teeth and increased tension in the jaw. Myofunctional therapy involves exercises to promote correct swallowing patterns, where the tongue presses against the palate, reducing undue stress on the jaw muscles. Contact us today to learn more.

Strengthening Orofacial Muscles

Myofunctional therapy includes a series of exercises designed to strengthen the orofacial muscles. These exercises target the muscles involved in chewing, swallowing, and speaking. By improving muscle strength and coordination, the therapy helps distribute the workload more evenly across the orofacial region, reducing the strain on any single muscle group and alleviating jaw pain. 

Promoting Proper Jaw Alignment

Misaligned teeth and improper jaw alignment are common contributors to jaw pain. Myofunctional therapy works in conjunction with orthodontic treatments to promote proper jaw alignment. Exercises that strengthen the orofacial muscles and correct poor habits can enhance the effectiveness of orthodontic interventions, leading to better jaw alignment and reduced pain. 

Reducing Bruxism

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a significant cause of jaw pain. Myofunctional therapy addresses the underlying muscle tension and habits that contribute to bruxism. The therapy can reduce the frequency and severity of teeth grinding by teaching relaxation techniques and proper muscle function, thereby alleviating associated jaw pain. 

Myofunctional Therapy Exercises for Jaw Pain

Tongue Positioning Exercises

  • Encourage the tongue to rest against the roof of the mouth, just behind the upper front teeth, with the lips closed and teeth slightly apart. 
  • Slide the tongue along the roof of the mouth from front to back without letting it touch the teeth. 
  • Press the tongue firmly against the roof of the mouth and hold for several seconds, then release. 

Swallowing Exercises

  • Practice swallowing a small sip of water while keeping the tongue against the roof of the mouth. 
  • Practice swallowing with the tongue in the correct position against the palate without food or drink. 
  • Place the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and push up while swallowing. 

Breathing Exercises

  • Practice breathing in and out through the nose with the lips closed, focusing on diaphragmatic breathing to reduce tension in the orofacial muscles. 
  • Place one hand on the chest and the other on the abdomen. Breathe deeply through the nose, allowing the abdomen to rise while keeping the chest still. Exhale slowly through the nose. 

Jaw Exercises

  • Gently open the mouth as wide as comfortable and hold for a few seconds before closing. Repeat several times to stretch the jaw muscles. 
  • Place the thumb under the chin and gently push upwards while opening the mouth, creating resistance. Hold for a few seconds and release. 
  • Place the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth and allow the jaw to relax and drop slightly. Practice maintaining this relaxed position.

Myofunctional therapy offers a promising, non-invasive approach to alleviating jaw pain by addressing the underlying causes of orofacial muscle function and habits. To know more, please call us at (503) 367-9440, schedule an appointment online, or email us to schedule your consultation and learn more about how myofunctional therapy can improve your oral health and quality of life.

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