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Jaw stretching exercises

Patient information A-Z

This exercise sheet is for adults who are at risk of developing or who are currently experiencing Trismus.

What is Trismus?

Trismus is a term used to describe painful and limited jaw movement. It can occur for a variety of reasons including facial injury, stroke, facial burns, or medical treatments such as radiotherapy and surgery to the head and neck.

The actual limitation in mouth opening is caused by several factors, either on their own or in combination, which are associated with scar tissue and the surrounding muscles and joints.

Having a good range of movement in your jaw is essential for chewing, (mastication), speech and maintaining good oral hygiene.

How can I tell if I have Trismus?

The simplest way to test yourself is to insert three of your stacked fingers between your front teeth. If you can do this you are probably fine. If you can only manage one or two fingers, you may have trismus.

Why do I need these exercises?

Your speech and language therapist or doctor may have identified you as being at risk of developing trismus, or you may already be experiencing some reduced jaw movement.

These gentle stretching exercises will help to maintain or improve the range of movement in your jaw.

How do I carry out the exercises?

Jaw stretching:

Open your mouth as wide as you can and hold the stretch for five seconds. Imagine you are yawning. Relax and repeat ten times.

Lateral jaw:

  • Move your jaw to the right side, hold for five seconds. Relax.
  • Move your jaw to the left side, Hold for five seconds. Relax.
  • Alternate this side-to-side movement ten times.

Try and speed the movement up as you get to the end of your ten repetitions, but ensure you are still moving your jaw as far in each direction.


  • imagine you are chewing a toffee
  • make your chewing movements big
  • alternate between having your lips open and closed
  • vary the speed of your chewing
  • aim to chew for 60 seconds

When should I do these exercises?

It is best to practice these exercises for short periods of time, on a regular basis. This helps them to have more of an effect on your jaw range of movement. A good target would be to practice them ten times a day.

What should I do if I cannot complete the exercises?

If you have any problems completing the exercises speak to your speech and language therapist who will be able to advise you.

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Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151