Jaw Pain, TMJ Syndrome and Snoring — Is the Gag on You?


Jaw tension and jaw movement are a very interesting pivotal point in the consideration of balanced movement and stance, but also, of physiological health and emotional well-being.


Our balance depends much upon 

where our jaw (mandible) is 

in relation to our cranium:


clenched or loosely supported

mandible forward, head back

or mandible back, head down and forward

or tighter more on one side than on the other?


or with our cranium well centered and 

moved in a well balanced 

by our free and gently elongated neck?


or pulling our head down and forward

as our lower jaw (mandible) pulls back and up

seemingly by itself

with no doing on our part.



and the position of our jaw reflects our physiological state and shape

our arousal state

our emotional state

our attitude

our readiness for what’s next

or our unreadiness

our “running” old memories

as our best understanding of the present

without also facing the mystery as 

this living moment.


The View from Outside


The upper jaw, part of the cranium, connects most intimately with the spine and back (dorsal aspect) of the body.


The lower jaw, the mandible, connects most intimately with the body-core and front (ventral aspect) of the body.


Miscoordination of the jaws, in biting, chewing, and rest position, causes a misfit between the front and back of the body.  That misfit causes chronic muscular tensions in the trunk and disturbances to breathing, swallowing, balance, posture and movement.  Jaws are a big deal.  I say more about that, below.


But for now, I think it’s time we looked something squarely in the face, viz.,

“the grimace”.


The grimace goes with the gag reflex,

but also with coughing,

revulsion, disgust (pulling back of the tongue),

and suppressed anger (pulling back the mandible in supression of the urge to bite someone),

all involving changes to the face, jaw position, the inside of the mouth, and throat.


And to all that, I say, “Blecch!”

But, there we are. We might as well look at it,

particularly if all that describes us.


So, the first question:


Where does our lower jaw go on such occasions?


Why, up and back.


The teeth clench,

the bones of the face compress and the face gets harder,

the tongue pulls back in and presses against the soft palate.


The head pulls forward and down,

the top of the head tips back

and the neck vertebrae come forward,

closing the throat passage from behind.


It’s a response that says,

“Nothing’s going in

and something may be coming out!”


As I said, “Blecch!”




Back to the jaws.


Clenching the teeth involves the muscles of the sides of the head

pulling the lower jaw (mandible)

up against the teeth of the upper jaw (the maxilla),

so the muscles of clenching pull the sides (and therefore, top) of the head down

and the bottom of the head, up

in a big squeeze.


The face shows it.


More is happening, however.


With the closing of the throat

comes also

depression of the front of the chest —

a cave-in

and compression around the base of the head

where the spinal cord enters (foramen magnum)

producing a sensation registered, somatically,

as shrinking inward along our length

and possibly, queasiness.


The change of mouth, throat, and chest shape

impair breathing at two focal locations

the throat

and the chest.


Well, this is a jolly state to be in.


The question arises:

“What is a more wholesome resting position of the lower jaw?”


I say,

“It is hanging freely, floating beneath the upper teeth

and somewhat forward.”


The exact amount of forward depends upon the inclination of the head

but in the neutral or balanced head position,

my provisional stand is, “the incisors match up”

although it’s an error to think of the jaws having a fixed rest position.

It’s more that they have a floating equilibrium that changes with head movement and position.


When our head is more inclined (forehead up)

the lower jaw hangs back, somewhat

as in the gag reflex

or worry.


When our head is somewhat bowed (forehead forward)

our lower jaw hangs forward, somewhat.


When our head is balanced between forward and back

our lower jaw hangs freely at some floating suspension point,

our facial bones feel the downward pull of the lower jaw

and they separate, somewhat

and our face softens.


Our chest spontaneously rehapes, sternum higher

breathing fuller,


and we sit at a new balance.


Some contrast with the gag reflex, eh?


So when we are revolting against life,

when life seems revolting to us

when “our bodies” are in revolt

or we are confronted with a revolting body,

and the emotion of revulsion closes in

the teeth clench, somewhat,

or maybe a lot. (TMJ Dysfunction/bruxism)


Repressed anger involves a pulling back of the mandible (lower jaw)

and clenching of the teeth,

the proverbial “gnashing of teeth”,

combined with a pasted-on smile

really, a grimace

not a true grin,

which is really the action of repressing rage and the urge

to bite someone.


An alternate cause of tightening the jaws in a held position

is pain in the jaws or teeth, whatever the cause,

which triggers the grimace response

of pulling the lower jaw back and up

or clenching the face.

Pain of sufficient intensity or duration

can cause long-term conditioning that outlasts the pain

and causes lingering pain of its own.


The same emotional and functional physiological changes occur from either cause.

It’s not an all-or-none reaction, either, but a matter of degree

according to the pain or emotional state, involved.


A person may experience manifestations of narrowed air passages:

he may snore

or have sleep apnea

or just grind his teeth at night

frightening his spouse

or the neighbors.


Freeing our jaws to hang more freely

enables us to feel and release accumulated grimace or pain-cringe

and enables us to move toward overall more wholesome health.

Our face shows it.





If you want to know how wholesome your own jaw position is,

take a walk,

and as you walk, slowly nod your head in a “yes” movement

and feel how freely your lower jaw changes hanging position.



articles on TMJ Dysfunction /TMD

Causes of TMJ Dysfunction



instructional video


preparation for the instructional video, above, if needed

self-relief program (video)





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