Practical Tips for Relaxing Your Jaw During Stressful Times

Did you know that clenching your jaw is an automatic action your body does when it’s stressed out?

You can’t always control it. You might not even notice it. But you, and millions of other people in the world, show your stress with this simple movement. It’s not a big deal — until the stress becomes so chronic that you end up with a painful jaw-clenching condition, like bruxism (grinding and clenching) or TMDs (temporomandibular joint disorders).

The side effects that come along with chronic clenching include pain in the jaw and facial muscles, neck discomfort, headaches, and tooth and gum damage. Left untreated, serious health disorders can arise, such as stroke, cardiovascular disease, and Type 2 diabetes.

But it doesn’t have to lead to that degree of danger. If you learn how to relax your jaw when you’re dealing with stress, you can avoid many of these ailments.

Professionals like JS Dental Lab discuss the pitfalls of bruxism and TMDs and how to prevent them. Here, we’ll review some of the most practical tips that you can do at the moment to stop the jaw-clenching damage.


1. Rest the Joint

The most important thing to keep in mind is that when you clench your jaw, it affects everything connected to those muscles. This means the delicate temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the jaw bone, and all the interconnected muscles, cartilage, nerves, and blood vessels feel the strains.

If any one of those pieces in the whole system is swollen or damaged, the rest of the connected parts stop working efficiently. You may notice this happening when your jaw pops or clicks with movement, your neck is stiff or hurts, or your bite doesn’t feel the same as it used to.

If these symptoms are starting to creep up in your daily life, but you don’t recognize the triggers yet, consider using a night guard to reduce the stress on your TMJ system.

Even if you only wear it when you sleep, it gives your muscles the chance to recuperate after a day of clenching and grinding. However, although the name says otherwise, you can wear your guard during the day when you know you’re going to be under tension, like during an exam or while you’re working.


2. Breathe In, Breathe Out

Yes, simply breathing the “right” way can help your body relax. When you’re stressed, your circulatory system goes on high alert, pumping blood faster, increasing your heart rate, and sending out doses of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Your muscles tighten, and your jaw clenches in preparation for a fight-or-flight response.

By taking control of your breathing and reining it in, you’re explaining to your brain and body that you’re safe. It’s a proven technique taught in yoga and meditation classes. You don’t need a course to teach you the basics, though.

Start by laying down or sitting someplace where you can be alone for a couple of minutes, then begin breathing in for a 3-5 second count and out for a 3-5 second count. Repeat as many times as it takes for you to feel in control of your stress or anxiety again.

Once you get the hang of this basic exercise and you want to learn more, you can research other breathing techniques for stress or join a yoga or meditation class.


3. Avoid Jaw Overuse

You’re starting to recognize the signs of an overworked jaw, and you know you’re dealing with some internal or external stress right now. What can you do to prevent unnecessary damage to the sensitive joints, tissues, and muscles from clenching?

While you might not be able to avoid all involuntary tightening of the jaw, you can still keep those parts from being overused. Wear your night guard when possible, and while you’re going through your day, skip anything that requires extra strain on the jaw area.

Things like talking a lot, chewing gum, eating steak, nuts, or other crunchy foods, and chewing tobacco are a no-no for jaw clenchers. Try to stick with soft foods, and just say no to caramels and sticky candies.

You should also avoid caffeinated beverages and foods, and other stimulants. Extra caffeine (or stimulation) causes your muscles to tighten and can increase the symptoms of bruxism until it leaves your system.

If you feel overstimulated, go for a walk or hit the gym for a workout. You’ll feel better, and when you sleep, your brain won’t need to release the built-up hormones through jaw clenching.



Jaw clenching is a very common reaction to stress, but it can cause significant damage if you don’t get it under control. Use these three practical tips to relax your jaw and all the connected parts when you’re dealing with tension, and you’ll find it’s easier to overcome the physical side effects of stress.

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