How many of these sound familiar: Your jaw is clicking, popping and getting stuck again. It hurts to open your mouth. Headaches. Neck and shoulder stiffness or pain. Ringing in your ears. Back pain. Vertigo. Tingling in your fingers.All of these symptoms can be related to a problem in the TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, the hinge between your cheekbone and your lower jaw. Headaches are probably the most common complaint, but you may not think of your clicking jaw as a related problem. It may not even bother most people, although they might notice it from time to time. Singers are probably aware of more degrees of jaw difficulty than most people, just because of the demands of the singing process.
What’s going on? Normally the upper and lower teeth fit together like meshed gears, but sometimes the gearing gets off, causing the muscles around the mandible (jaw) joint to tense and spasm. Many people report their first symptoms after receiving a blow to the head, such as might occur in a car accident, because the jaw becomes misaligned, which makes the teeth line up incorrectly, which begins the cycle of excess tension at the joint.
Good old-fashioned stress also makes for spasms in the chewing muscles.
Things that make it worse: Any activity that causes you to “grit” your teeth. For example, some people bite down while running or weightlifting, as well as when under stress. Biting down on the mouth appliances used in some sports, including football and scuba diving, can be problematic, and grinding your teeth at night is both an indicator and an aggravator of TMJ Syndrome. (You may also see the terms TMJ Disorder or TMJ Disease. They all refer to the same set of problems.)
What can I do? Try keeping your teeth separated whenever possible, especially when stressed. Also be aware of opening the mouth too far, something we as singers have to learn to work around. Many sufferers open their mouths crookedly. Moist heat may also help relieve the tension.
Medical options: If you think you may have a problem with your jaw joint, the person to see is your dentist. TMJ treatment usually starts out with a particular kind of mouth appliance that helps realign the upper and lower jaws. Your dentist can probably
determine if this is right for you.
Clearly, a singer needs the jaw to be working freely and easily, with as little tension as possible. In addition to relief from constant headaches, getting help could mean the difference between making no progress in your lessons and having the beautiful, easy tone you’ve always wanted.
See also: www.tmj.org