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Tight Jaw Muscles: Causes and Relief Methods

Tight Jaw Muscles: Causes and Relief Methods-Absolute Smile

Have you ever experienced unexplained headaches or soreness in your pain and/or facial muscles? Has your jaw ever made any clicking noises or locked in place temporarily?

These are all signs of tight jaw muscles.

Keep reading to see why your jaw muscles might be tight and how to relieve them.

What Causes Tight Jaw Muscles?

Tight jaw muscles have several possible causes.

Anxiety and Stress

People often “carry” stress or anxiety in their shoulders and trapezius muscles next to their neck, but many often unknowingly clench their jaw as well. This constant flexion of the jaw muscles leads to tightness over time.

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Bruxism, the medical term for teeth grinding, can occur whether you’re asleep or awake. It usually happens in conjunction with stress or anxiety as people clamp down their jaw and grind their teeth together.

In addition to jaw pain, bruxism can damage teeth if left untreated.

TMJ Disorders

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, connects your jawbone to your skull. Disorders that affect this joint are called TMJ disorders.

Symptoms of TMJ disorders include

  • Tenderness in the jaw, surrounding area, or neck
  • Difficulty opening jaw
  • Headaches
  • Clicking/popping noises when opening the jaw

TMJ disorders can be caused by

  • Clenching your jaw/teeth grinding
  • Trauma to the area (such as getting hit)
  • Inflammation due to disease


Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause painful muscle contractions in the jaw and neck area.

However, tetanus vaccines exist.

Between 2 months and 6 years of age, children should get their DTap vaccine. When they reach age 11 or 12, they should get the Tdap booster.

After that, they should get a Td vaccine every 10 years.


Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can cause jaw pain and tightness.

Osteoarthritis occurs from natural joint wear and tear over time. It more commonly occurs in the hands, hips, and knees, but it can also affect the jaw.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, meaning your immune system attacks your body; in this case, it attacks your joints, including your jaw.

Symptoms include

  • Jaw tightness
  • Joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation
  • Fever

How to Relieve Tight Jaw Muscles


Stretching your jaw muscles can loosen them up in the same fashion as stretching any other muscle. Try some of these stretches:

  • The Goldfish – Rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Put one index finger on the TMJ joint and the other on the front of your chin. Lower your bottom jaw as much as you can, then close your mouth again and repeat a few times.
  • Jaw stretch – Rest your tongue behind your top front teeth. Lower your bottom jaw as far as it goes, maintaining relaxed jaw muscles the whole time.
  • Resistance – Imitate the “thinking” pose by putting your thumb under your chin and wrapping your index finger around the front of your chin. Apply gentle force against the bottom of your chin. Slowly open your jaw, hold for a few seconds, then close the jaw again. Repeat a few times.

Over-The-Counter Medication

Over-the-counter pain medication like Ibuprofen can temporarily relieve jaw pain. However, it won’t solve the underlying tightness, so use pain medication in conjunction with other relief methods.


Temporarily replacing hard/chewy foods with softer options can give the jaw time to heal up. Try adding the following healthy choices to your diet:

  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt
  • Applesauce
  • Soup
  • Eggs (not boiled)

Mouthguard/Bite Splint

Mouthguards can help prevent you from unknowingly clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth, relieve pain in your jaw and preventing your teeth from wearing down.

Are you looking for jaw tightness/pain relief in the Philadelphia area? Contact Absolute Smile. Let’s find what’s causing your jaw pain so we can keep your jaw healthy and your teeth in shape.

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