Have you ever woken up with a sore jaw or gone to the dentist and been told that you grind your teeth? At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a dentist shared with us that most of the patients she saw came to her because of painful jaw tension. “It’s about stress,” she said. She recognized that her patients’ nervous systems were on high alert.

Jaw tension and teeth grinding are more common than most people let on. TMJD (temporomandibular joint dysfunction) is most often a classic example of Sensory Motor Amnesia.

The muscles of the face that connect to the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) are part of a full-body pattern of muscular holding. Many think that the jaw is separate from the neck and shoulders, but they are connected both functionally and structurally. The neck and shoulders are connected to the center of the body, so when you think about it, tension in the jaw can begin in the center of the body.

The most common reason someone experiences jaw pain is habituation of the Red Light Reflex. This reflex can become habituated due to repetitive functions, like slumping over a computer or lying back in a dentist’s chair with mouth open and neck arched back. It can also be the result of mental and emotional worry and stored trauma. When the face is pulled forward as the center collapses, the muscles that move the jaw can learn to stay tight just like any other muscles in your body. 

The good news is that when you can sense how you are holding yourself you can self-correct and come out of it to a sense of length and alignment, your head on top of your spine and your jaw relaxed.

Try This video to begin to release tight jaw muscles. Let us know how it goes!