Managing Wellness

Exercise and Oral Health: Why Your Jaw Might Hurt From Working Out

  • If you're experiencing jaw pain while working out, this could be caused by infection, TMD or even weak core muscles
  • Visit a dentist to make sure you don't have a tooth infection or TMD and visit a doctor to make sure it isn't caused by a heart problem
  • You might need to wear a mouth guard to break a bad teeth-clenching habit or see a professional trainer to correct bad form while exercising
Posted by June 20, 2018

There’s a bigger connection between exercise and oral health than you might think. The effects of prolonged physical activity on jaws or teeth, even in non-contact sports, can sometimes lead to long-lasting pain. But what can you or your employees do to alleviate the symptoms? You have both short- and long-term remedies at your disposal.

Here are a few reasons for jaw pain during or after exercise:

Tooth Infections

The pain from a dental infection, such as a cavity, can act up while you’re working out. This is because exercise increases your blood flow which can exacerbate inflammation. This may make a sensitive nerve feel temporarily worse. Any trauma to your teeth, like a cracked molar that hasn’t been fixed, can also lead to pain while working out.

Teeth Clenching

If you tend to clench your teeth when you’re stressed, you may be doing this subconsciously while you’re working out. This can cause your jaw, teeth or even your gums to feel sore. Try to be more conscious of how you’re holding your jaw while you’re exercising—you may need to consciously loosen your jaw every once in a while to break a clenching habit. Sometimes, grinding or clenching your teeth at night can make your jaw more sensitive to stress during the day. If this is the case, you might need a night guard.


If you have Temporomandibular Joint Disorder then your jaw pain might act up during certain exercises, like swimming. The type of breathing that you do while swimming might irritate already inflamed jaw muscles. In addition, getting water in your ears can also irritate an already painful jaw. If you think you might have TMD, visit your dentist right away.


You might be surprised to learn that dehydration can make jaw pain worse. This happens for a couple different reasons. First, dehydration can cause a flare-up of TMD because your joints aren’t lubricating as well. Dehydration can also cause you to clench or grind your teeth from the stress on your body, which can make your jaw sore. Make sure you drink plenty of water any time you’re working out.

Weak Core Muscles

If you’re doing a lot of abdominal work, such as crunches, then it’s possible that weak core or neck muscles or poor form could contribute to tooth pain. You see, it’s very easy to rely on your neck muscles too much while doing sit ups, causing strain. This can lead to neck pain later and even jaw pain if you’re clenching your teeth at the same time. Poor form can also cause you to rely too much on your neck. Try keeping your hands behind your ears instead of your neck or looking at a spot on the ceiling as you do crunches.

What to Do First

If you’re experiencing jaw or tooth pain that acts up while exercising, first visit a dentist to rule out an infection. You should also consider seeing a doctor. In rare cases, heart problems can cause feelings of discomfort in your jaw. If your dentist and doctor can’t find a cause for your pain, try paying attention to how you’re holding your teeth while you’re working out. Pay attention to your posture and your form or ask a personal trainer to comment on your form. You might even try a few exercises specifically designed to alleviate TMD pain and improve posture. One of these involves sitting with a pillow between your knees, your hands clasped behind your back and your shoulder blades pinches together. Squeeze and release the pillow between your knees about 60 times.

As you can see, exercise and oral health can be closely linked. A series of undiagnosed conditions could be causing you to feel pain in your jaw while you’re working out. Luckily, in most cases, solutions to alleviate the pain are straightforward.

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