The Overlooked Link Between Your Jaw and Neck Pain (and How to Fix It)

Do you deal with chronic neck stiffness, pain, and headaches? Have you tried everything to find relief with no lasting results? According to our favorite dentist Dr. Rebecca Taylor, you may be overlooking a key piece of the pain puzzle – your jaw.

In this blog and corresponding podcast, we’ll dive into the vital connection between your jaw, airway, and neck issues most practitioners miss. Read on to discover:

  • How jaw misalignment contributes to persistent neck pain
  • Simple at-home exercises to start retraining your jaw and tongue
  • When you actually need a dental appliance like a night guard
  • The right questions to ask to get to the TRUE cause of your neck pain

By the end, you’ll have a clear action plan to address neck pain at its unexpected source – starting today!

The Jaw-Neck Connection Causing Your Pain

Here’s something most doctors won’t tell you – misalignments in your jaw can directly cause recurring neck pain.

How is this possible? Your jaw placement impacts the positioning of your cervical spine. When your jaw alignment is off, it throws your entire neck out of whack.

Your tongue is connected to the hyoid bone, which attaches to the cervical spine. When your tongue posture is imbalanced or weak, it destabilizes the neck. Poor tongue position (often from mouth breathing) allows the jaw to slide back, putting pressure on the upper cervical vertebrae.

Jaw instability also causes the muscles of the neck to overwork to compensate. This muscle tension translates into stiffness, headache, and facial pain.

Dr. Taylor frequently sees patients with unexplained neck aches who find relief only after addressing dental factors. Proper jaw and tongue positioning are critical for reducing neck pain.

Do You Have a Jaw-Neck Imbalance?

If you answer YES to any of these questions, you may have a jaw imbalance contributing to your neck pain:

  • Does your jaw make clicking or popping sounds?
  • Do you grind or clench your teeth?
  • Is your mouth open or tongue positioned down when relaxed?
  • Do you have difficulty breathing through your nose/snore at night?
  • Is your bite misaligned or uncomfortable?
  • Are your neck muscles always knotted and tight?

Any of these symptoms indicate it’s time to evaluate your jaw-neck connection. The sooner it’s addressed, the faster you’ll find relief.

At-Home Solutions to Retrain Your Jaw

Dr. Taylor emphasizes starting treatment of jaw-neck imbalances with simple at-home exercises before turning to dental appliances or invasive options.

Here are three easy ways to start retraining your jaw and tongue for neck pain relief:

1.Improve tongue posture

Make sure your tongue is pressed gently against the roof of your mouth whenever possible. Practice keeping your lips together and tongue up on the palate – while working, watching TV, walking around the house, etc.

Aim to breathe only through your nose, not your mouth. Exercises like pressing the tip of the tongue to the ridge behind your top front teeth can strengthen your tongue.

2.Release tight jaw muscles.

Do gentle stretches and massage along the jaw, cheek, and neck using a tennis ball or massage tool. Roll out tension in the pterygoids (inner jaw).

Apply heat to relax muscles before stretching them.

3.Relax resting jaw position.

Notice if you are clenching your jaw or positioning it too far forward/back. Consciously relax your jaw so it hangs open slightly. Let it rest in a natural, relaxed position.

Perform these simple exercises daily to retrain dysfunctional jaw, tongue, and neck muscle patterns. But when do you need more advanced treatments?

Should You See a Dentist for Your Neck?

Dr. Taylor believes that dental appliances like night guards should be thoughtfully considered based on testing. Bite guards help some patients, but they aren’t a quick fix for all jaw-neck issues, and in many cases can make things worse.

A dentist can evaluate your jaw placement, muscle activity, airway, and bite alignment to determine if an oral appliance is warranted. Custom-fit bite guards worn full-time are more effective than the popular boil-and-bite night guards from the drugstore.

Ask your dentist these questions to see if your jaw could be the missing link in finding neck pain relief:

  • Will you test my ideal resting jaw position using a TENS unit or other scans? This reveals optimal jaw placement.
  • Can we evaluate my airway, tongue position, and breathing quality? This identifies obstructions.
  • What type of dental appliance would you recommend and when should it be worn? Full-time wear may be needed.
  • How can we assess if poor neck posture is contributing to my jaw imbalance? The neck must be rebalanced as well.

Take Things Up a Notch with Postural Training

To fully address a jaw-neck imbalance, Dr. Taylor believes chiropractic care and postural retraining are essential. Chiropractors assess the alignment of the cervical spine and perform specific adjustments to bring the neck into balance.

Specialized postural exercises then reinforce proper positioning in the jaw and neck. When the jaw, tongue, head, and neck are correctly aligned through postural retraining, pain is greatly reduced.

Relieving jaw-neck pain requires an integrated approach addressing the whole body connection. Finding practitioners open to this big-picture view is key.

Regain Relief: Assess Your Jaw-Neck Connection

If neck stiffness and headaches are diminishing your quality of life, it’s time to explore all contributing factors. Tackle jaw dysfunction and neck misalignments together for lasting relief.

Poor jaw alignment and tongue position are often the missing link for resolving persistent neck pain issues. Try simple at-home exercises to start. Have your jaw evaluated by a holistic dentist to determine if orthotic treatment or dental work is warranted.

Correcting your jaw-neck imbalance through postural training combined with specialized chiropractic care could finally help you find relief. Use the right solutions to target neck pain at its source.

To determine if your jaw imbalance is contributing to neck pain, schedule a comprehensive evaluation with Dr. Rebecca Taylor at her office in Edmonds. Call (425) 776-3352 or book online HERE.

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