What your dentist might not know about your mouth and how
massage can help
Are you one of the millions of Americans who suffers from jaw or tooth pain? Has your dentist diagnosed you with Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)? Are you unsure about how to get relief? One way is to work with a massage therapist who is certified in neuromuscular therapy. She can teach you how to massage your own mouth to help relieve the pain; of course, one-time self-massage is not going to permanently eliminate the pain. It took time for the pain to develop and it will take time to undo the stress and strain.
TMJ is characterized by pain when opening the mouth wide, sometimes when chewing, and often when clenching the teeth together. Among the areas where you might feel pain because of tightness in the jaw muscles are: the ear, the underside of the cheek bone, on top of the cheek bone, next to the ear, the bottom of the jaw, the teeth, above the eye and the head. Not all TMJ diagnoses are a result of muscular issues in the area surrounding the jaw, but releasing muscles that are overly tight is a good preventative measure.
Situations that can cause or aggravate the problem include: sucking the thumb after infancy, overuse of a pacifier as a child, excessive gum chewing, bruxism (grinding of the teeth), anxiety and emotional stress. Another factor to consider is that each one of us is asymmetrical; that is, we have one side that is stronger than the other. If you are right-handed, itís likely that your right hand and leg are stronger than the left. Left-handed people have the additional stress of living in and adapting to a right-handed world. Your jaw can be affected by this imbalance as well. You might favor one side of your mouth when chewing, for example. Thus, a misalignment in your mouth might cause the pain in your jaw.
Check with your dentist first before seeing a neuromuscular massage therapist. And be aware that, as defined by their scope of practice, massage therapists cannot put their fingers in your mouth. That is why a good neuromuscular therapist will teach you how to take care of yourself through self-massaging your mouth and jaw, inside and outside. By finding a massage therapist who specializes in neuromuscular therapy, you can get the relief that you are looking for. Because stress and anxiety can be factors in the clenching of the jaw muscles, a general massage to work out tension can decrease anxiety and also relax these and other muscles.