Important Jaw Stretches for Dental Sleep Apnea Devices

To help prevent side effects involving bite changes or jaw soreness from oral appliance therapy, incorporating morning jaw stretches or using alignment tools could be helpful and recommended by most qualified dental sleep medicine practitioners for their snoring and apnea patients who are using oral appliances. 

Jaw stretches can also help prevent re-emerging jaw discomfort in patients with a history of TMJ or more correctly, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). 

Patients with a prior history of jaw pain or TMD should not be discouraged from oral appliance therapy, especially if they follow the recommendations of their sleep apnea dentist. 

Let’s review several simple stretches that may help with jaw soreness or bite changes that you may experience when using your oral snoring and apnea sleep appliance. Here are some additional tips before you begin:

  • If you are having moderate discomfort, consider applying moist heat on the sore area for 10 minutes and massage your cheeks and temples to help improve blood flow in the muscles 
  • When performing the stretches, move your jaw far enough to feel the stretch but avoid movements that increase pain or soreness
  • Although most patients choose to do these stretches in the morning several minutes after removing the oral sleep device, they can be performed at any time of day.
  • If the following stretches do not help your situation, it is important to contact your sleep apnea dentist for more guidance

Recommended jaw stretches by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM)

Here is a list of stretches recommended by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM). You can follow along for a clearer video demonstration here: 

Tongue Up – Open & Close Stretch   

Step 1. While seated, rest your head back on a comfortable surface 

Step 2. Place your tip of the tongue behind your front upper teeth

Step 3. Open and close

Step 4. Repeat 10 times

Step 1 tongue up excercise
Step 1
step 2 tongue up excerise
Step 2

Tongue Up – Back & Forth Stretch

Step 1. Place your tongue behind your front teeth

Step 2. Slide your tongue toward the back of your throat and return to the front

Step 3. Repeat 10 times

Step 1
Step 2

Fist Under Jaw Stretch

Step 1. Place your fist under your chin or lower jaw

Step 2. Open and close your mouth (without overextending your jaw) slowly against the pressure of your fist

Step 3. Repeat 10 times

Step 1
Step 2

2 Fingers Forward Chin Stretch         

Step 1. Place 2 fingers on the center of your chin

Step 2. Push your chin outwards towards the resistance of your fingers

Step 3. Move your chin back to a resting position

Step 4. Repeat 10 times

Step 1

2 Finger Right Chin Stretch    

Step 1. Place 2 fingers against the right side of your chin

Step 2. Move your jaw to the right against the pressure of your fingers

Step 3. Bring your jaw back to your resting position

Step 4. Repeat 10 times.

Step 1
Step 2

2 Finger Left Chin Stretch

Step 1. Place 2 fingers against the left side of your chin

Step 2. Move your jaw to the left against the pressure of your fingers

Step 3. Bring your jaw back to your resting position

Step 4. Repeat 10 times

Step 1
Step 2

Additional jaw stretches for oral appliance therapy 

Additionally, some patients have found these stretches very helpful in minimizing jaw and bite discomfort during oral appliance therapy.

Wide Open Stretch

Step 1. Open and close your mouth wide, giving the jaw a long slow stretch

Step 2. Repeat 3-5 times

Look Up Ceiling and Tap Back Teeth Together

Step 1. Stretch your neck by looking up at the ceiling

Step 2. Tap your back teeth together slowly 5 times

The Thinker Stretch

Step 1. Put your elbow on a  table and place your palm under your chin 

Step 2. Rest for 2-3 minutes

Step 3. This may slowly allow the jaw to move up and back

The Thinker Stretch

Your dental sleep apnea provider may have provided you with alternate stretches to use to help reestablish your ‘normal’ bite or alleviate jaw discomfort. There is no one perfect stretch in oral appliance therapy. It is always best to discuss which stretches would be most helpful to you with your sleep apnea dentist.

About morning bite realigning tools

In addition to jaw stretches, the use of morning jaw alignment tools may be of great benefit for oral appliance patients.

Jaw alignment tools may be called a variety of names.  Here are just a few: 

  • A.M. aligners
  • Morning aligners
  • Morning repositioners
  • Morning reprogrammers
  • Morning occlusal guides 

Morning aligners can help prevent long term bite changes and help patients’ bites feel “more normal” after removing their oral sleep apnea devices.

For more on how to use morning realigning tools see our article about, How to Use a Morning Aligner for your dental sleep device (COMING SOON)

Summary

Becoming aware of your natural bite, performing daily jaw stretches and using prescribed morning realigning tools are great ways to help reduce jaw soreness and bite changes. 

If you have followed the above recommendations and still experience jaw soreness or bite changes, contact your sleep apnea dentist for further guidance.

Sources

  1. Cunali PA;Almeida FR;Santos CD;Valdrichi NY;Nascimento LS;Dal-Fabbro C;Tufik S;Bittencourt LR; (n.d.). Mandibular exercises improve mandibular advancement device therapy for obstructive sleep apnea. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20967571/
  2. KE;, F. K. M. I. A. R. E. W. B. (n.d.). Side effects of mandibular advancement devices for sleep apnea treatment. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11549538/. 
  1. Hiroyuki Ishiyama, Shusuke Inukai, Akira Nishiyama, & Masayuki Hideshima. (2017, July). Effect of jaw-opening exercise on prevention of temporomandibular disorders pain associated with oral appliance therapy in obstructive sleep apnea patients: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312102990_Effect_of_jaw-opening_exercise_on_prevention_of_temporomandibular_disorders_pain_associated_with_oral_appliance_therapy_in_obstructive_sleep_apnea_patients_A_randomized_double-blind_placebo-controlled. 

This article is general in nature and for educational purposes only. Please consult with your sleep health provider before starting any treatment option for snoring and apnea.