I’ve had an extremely stressful workweek, and oddly enough, I’ve started clenching my jaw because of all this stress (it really, really hurts, too! ). This jaw-clenching business is a new thing for me, so I must ask my fellow stressed-out Dopers if you know any helpful methods to get me to stop with this irritating habit? (Besides quitting this Godforsaken job, of course…)
Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and hold your lips slightly apart. That can help ease the tension.
How to stop having the tension is the real problem. Sadly, I cannot help
Oddly enough, I’ve been going through a bout of jaw clenching the past few weeks myself. Sometimes focused relaxation or meditation helps me, along with some ibuprofen.
Feel better soon :(.
I’ve been doing this for YEARS. It’s absolutely awful.
I have to keep reminding myself not to do it, but I do it unconsciously as soon as my mind wanders to something else.
The headaches I get from this are excruciating.
Lately I’ve tried chewing gum, and that seems to be helping.
I’m a chronic jaw-clencher (and my god it was awful when I was still serious about violin!). I’ve finally figured out what works for me, which is: never, ever be without gum, mints, or a drink with a straw. I’m a two-pack-a-week chewer, in all seriousness. Some of my friends occasionally mock me, but if I keep doing something with my jaw, I’m not clenching it.
If you’re doing it at night, you may want to talk to your dentist - they might be able to give you some recommendations. I occasionally, if I’m immensely stressed, will clench my jaw all night to the point of waking up with a raging headache (not a good start to the morning). If you don’t mind a bit of serious drooling, even just a normal sports mouthguard can help with that.
A big part of the problem is that you are clenching your teeth together, which is an unnatural postition for your mouth to be in—normally there is a bit of a gap. That’s one of the reasons (apart from protecting your teeth) that bite guards are such a good thing. If you can put your tongue between your front teeth to maintain a gap there, then that should help. A professional bite guard is a few hundred bucks, but they’re fairly unobtrusive. It is unfortunate that I cannot afford one.
The above info comes from my dentist.
So, if you can’t stop clenching, then clench with a bit of a gap between your teeth.
I second the tongue-on-the-roof-of-your-mouth suggestion. I used to clench like crazy, then my TMJ started making my life unlivable so drastic action was required.
Whenever you feel yourself clenching, put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and try to redirect the urge to clench from your jaw to your tongue. (It might help to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.) Your jaw should relax. Focus on the feeling of your tongue. Hold it there as long as you need to.
After I did this a lot it became automatic. I stopped clenching and started relaxing, and almost all of the pain in my jaw/head/neck went away.
Also, try yoga.
I’m a jaw clencher, too. A good massage every now and again is a good way to help with the tension. If there’s a massage school in your area you can usually get a good one for about half the price of a “fancy” one. The one problem with this is students are usually timid about using real pressure, so you gotta tell them to “hurt you.”
Also I second cowgirl’s recommendation on the yoga. I’m not a new agey, bendy type person, but I started hot yoga and it’s really helped with my jaw clenching and the stress that causes me to do it.
This is an excellent suggestion. Chew gum or suck on hard candy to “distract” your jaw muscles until you break the habit.
Are you grinding your teeth at night as well? If you are, then follow the advice of js_africanus and get a professional bite guard. My husband wore his teeth almost flat before he got his guard.
First suggestion: see your dentist.
Second suggestion: You may need to have your bite adjusted. Years ago I would wake up gritting my teeth and clenching my jaw. I told my dentist and he did one of those “blue paper” checks on my bite to discover I had a bad match on a couple of molars. With a little bit of non-anesthetized grinding he was able to remove the bump on one of those teeth that made me grit them. I’ve not been bothered with the problem since then.
I am a chronic jaw-clencher, but mine took a drastic change, so please take note. Seems I have been doing this for years and didn’t realize it. I developed TMJ, a pretty severe case. Last summer my jaw locked shut and I had to have surgery to get it unlocked. Almost a year after, I still cannot open my mouth as much as before, but I’ve learned to deal with it. That was the right side of my jaw, I’m waiting on my left side to go out in the next year or so.
Try stress-relievers such as massage, yoga, meditation. Try to be mindful of situations that cause it and work through them before getting too upset.
I have another problem I’ve developed from all this, I push my tongue against the back of my front teeth when I sleep. It causes quite a bit of discomfort. Recently, I picked up a Doctor’s Night Guard from my local grocery store, it’s about $25 and is custom-formed to your teeth (a few minutes prep time, not bad). I’ve been sleeping with in in for about a week or so now and I don’t have nearly the amount of headaches and toothaches in the morning.
It can be your bite is off (which is why sometimes they want you to wear braces with TMJ, but I’m still stuck in the egg/chicken thing with this, did my clenching cause my teeth to shift or was it that way before? who really knows), or it can be stress related. Avoid tough foods for a while to give your jaw a break, do things you enjoy, etc.
I used to be far more stressed than when my jaw locked, I guess all the years of anger and frustration that I internalized finally just wore everything down. Good luck and try to relax, you really don’t want to go through the embarrassment of being locked (open or shut, especially open), the numerous dentist, oral surgeon, and MRI appointments. It’s not fun. Keep us updated.