It is not quite possible to talk about the care of your jaws without including the structures that surround them, in the discussion. These structures support and allow the jaws to function properly and together they work to carry out their collective function, which is chewing, primarily.
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ), the joints of your jaws are overworked. Not only are they incessantly used for chewing when eating, an activity you do countless of times in a day, but they are also involved in a lot of other routine activities such as talking, yawning, swallowing, and chewing gum, and sometimes even nail-biting, teeth clenching and grinding. Because of these activities, your TMJ and facial muscles are one of the most, if not the most worked out system in your body. We know that too strenuous and frequent exercise may be just as bad as lacking exercise, yet we unconsciously require our TMJ together with our facial muscles to work at an uncontrolled fashion.
A healthy human body can be likened to a well-maintained machine with all its component parts in their tip top conditions. The human body with all its parts, like the machine in our analogy, should therefore be maintained properly if we are to expect to get the optimum results we demand from them.
How to Care for Your Jaws
Special care must be given to your jaws, the hardworking part of your body. Health care experts suggest the following:
- Avoid eating very hard foods like bagels, French bread, hard rolls or crispy fried pork skin often.
- Avoid too chewy foods such as candy or steak.
- Cut foods including fruits such as apples and vegetables such as carrots into small, bite-size pieces.
- Avoid chewing gum.
- Use your left and right jaws at the same time or alternately to chew food. This will prevent straining one side. Also, use your back teeth when chewing, instead of using your front teeth to bite.
- Avoid bad oral habits that tend to strain your jaw muscles and joints. These include teeth grinding or bruxism, teeth clenching, biting your lips or cheeks, pushing your tongue against your teeth, and biting nails or other objects.
- Always keep your jaw muscles relaxed, your tongue up and your upper teeth and lower teeth apart.
- Practice abdominal breathing and relaxation. Learn to reduce your strong negative reactions to stressful events.
- Get a good quality sleep.
- Avoid caffeine, which can negatively affect your getting a good night’s sleep.
- Do not sleep on your stomach.
- Avoid opening your jaws widely, especially for a prolonged period of time, as in yawning and long dental treatments.
- Do jaw stretching exercises regularly. The techniques should be gentle and not cause hurting to your jaws. Joint sounds such as popping, clicking, or grating when doing the exercises, may indicate that you have a TMJ disorder. These exercises when performed properly, can help bring relief to stiff and aching muscles or to spasms. They can also even prevent pains and aches usually associated with TMj and fatigue of the facial muscles.
Please consider visiting your chiropractor if you can’t cope with the jaw pain yourself. We should do justice to one of the most efficient “workhorses” of our body systems, our jaws, by taking good care of them and observing the proper healthcare maintenance to keep them working for us for years and years to come in our lifetime.