top of page
  • Writer's pictureMarcia Campagna

Why does my jaw hurt?

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Part 2: Temporalis Muscle

At Best Speech Therapy, PLLC, we frequently work with people who complain of pain or discomfort of the jaw. There are a lot of reasons for orofacial pain such as Trigeminal Neuralgia, clenching, grinding, TMJ disorder (TMD), and more. The most common reason for facial pain is due to a muscle imbalance; many times this muscle pain is a result of bruxism or excessive clenching and grinding.

In this series of blogs, I discuss how the jaw muscles and the function of this muscles contribute to pain. We discussed how the masseter muscle can become imbalanced from teeth together postures, bruxism, and more in Part 1. In Part 3, we will focus on the pterygiod muscles and how the movement at the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint) contributes to TMJ pain. In Part 4, we will focus on how jaw work (chewing) is crucial for mouth, airway development and cognitive performance.

The temporalis muscle, commonly known as the fan muscle, located on the side of the head covering the temporal region. Many times we see people rubbing their temples as a way to massage the pain away.

Masseter Muscle -
Photo Credit: NHI Blog by William Mathis

The temporalis muscle is responsible for the following functions of the mouth:

  • Retracts jaw from the open or lowered position while chewing

  • Closes off the mouth

  • Places the disc in the TMJ upon closing the mouth

  • Helps to control and keep chewed up food in the mouth

  • Stabilizes the jaw

  • Promotes jaw graded movement that supports biting, sucking, chewing, and suckling

  • Helping in closing the lips

Now that you have a little background regarding the temporalis muscle, let's get back to that jaw pain...

Signs that you may have an orofacial myofunctional disorder characterized of a jaw symptoms:

  • Do I hold mymouth open when I'm are not eating, drinking, or talking?

  • Do I find myself jutting my jaw forward with my mouth open when I'm not eating, drinking, or talking?

  • Do I find myself mouth breathing?

  • Do I have headaches in the temple and/or forehead areas?

  • Do I have pain in the upper jaw or upper teeth?

  • Do I find one side weaker than other when I'm biting my food?

  • Do I prefer to suck my food in place of chewing my food?

Keep in mind that muscles are "sensitive to the rate at which a muscle stretches and to the extent a muscle stretches". (Mason, et al.)

So holding your mouth open for extended periods of time can create a strained and/or overused temporalis. Because the temporalis muscle assists in the placement of the disc in to the Tmj, Temporomandibular joint, with mouth closure, holding your mouth open frequently during the day can contribute to TMJ discomfort due to improper placement of the disc. Chewing on one side and not the other can also create a muscle imbalance - one underused temporalis and the other one being overused.

Chewing or mastication, is a complex and dynamic movement used to prepare food to be swallowed and digested. Chewing involves the jaw, lips, and tongue muscles.

The masseter muscle from part 1 works with the temporalis muscle, and the Pterygoid muscles (Part 3) in the dynamic process of chewing or mastication (Part 4).

Lack of chewing results in atrophy of the orofacial muscles which in time results in loss of the bone structure that changes from the lack of efficient and optimal use of our muscles. In other words, orofacial muscle imbalances can change your bone structure.

Our orofacial myologists and speech pathologists collaborate with your medical, dental, and whole body professionals to improve functional mouth movements by targeting muscle imbalances.

We strive to improve your quality of life by assessing your jaw, lips, tongue movements and the functions of breathing, chewing/swallowing, and speaking.

Email to schedule your Orofacial Myofunctional evaluation today!

Gatto, K. K. (2016). Understanding the orofacial complex: The Evolution of Dysfunction. Outskirts Press.
Mason, R. M., et al. (2020). The importance of the freeway space in orofacial myofunctional therapy. International Journal of Orofacial Myology and Myofunctional Therapy,46(1), 37-47.
Saccomanno, S., & Paskay, L. C. (2020). New trends in myofunctional therapy: Occlusion, muscles and posture. Edi-Ermes.

51 views0 comments


bottom of page