Exercise System for Jaw/TMJ Rehabilitation and Oro-facial Muscle Imbalance and Jaw

The Facial-Flex® system is an intra-oral neuromuscular re-education and biofeedback training device to help reduce muscular pain and deprogram excessive muscle forces/jaw pain.

This system was originally conceived as a prosthetic training aid for orofacial burn victims with scarring and lip contracture. Facial-Flex® was subsequently developed for speech therapy and swallowing/dysphagia disorders. Lip strengthening and redirecting oral balance can reduce lip incontinence/drooling, as well as improve the smile pattern. It has been successfully tested for facial cosmetics to improve skin tone and muscle tightening, and to improve appearance and face symmetry (aging appearance vs. youthfulness). Results of studies have been reported in the Journals of Dermatology and Gerontology. There is also potential use in the head/neck region for reducing the visibility of scars. Most recently, the device has found applicability in the dental/TMD/TMJ rehabilitation field.

A wide range of muscles in the head, neck, and jaw are used when using the Facial-Flex® strengthening system. Exercise stimulates improved function and balance from the temporalis/temple region, mouth/masticatory and swallowing musculature and TMJ, to the throat and cervical/neck structures. These are seen in the following anatomic drawings, from: Patient Information / Dental Medicine Topics: Volume I: Section I “Clinical Aspects of Dento-Facial Pain Evaluation”, 1999, by Stephen David Smith, D.M.D., PCOM Press. There has typically been reported a major increase in strength of overall oral and facial muscle tone from this exercise regimen, demonstrated over an 8-week period. Potential benefits have shown up to a 250% increase in facial muscle tone, and a 32% increase in facial skin firming. It is similar to isometric/isokinetic power lifting. Wear the device when you catch yourself clenching and grinding as a biofeedback reminder – “lips together, teeth apart”. If there is muscle pain or fatigue, go slowly and reduce the intensity of force of elastics, or number of “reps”. Starting with 30 or 40 repeats, progress often is to 100 over a single exercise period before fatigue. Allow rest intervals, as with any muscle training program. This device strengthens and tightens the facial and lip muscles, and helps reduce sagging of the lower face. The basic approach is simple to remember: “two minutes, twice a day”, like brushing your teeth! With repetition, strengthening occurs, and repeats up to 120 in a three-minute session twice a day may be the ultimate exercise regimen to reinforce muscle tone.

Use the Facial-Flex® for approx. 2 minutes at a time twice a day, with the last session before bedtime. Night clenching can be reduced with strengthening of the jaw musculature. The device is not designed to replace custom formed/fabricated night guards/splints. It is recommended to help balance and strengthen jaw and oral/neck muscles by tonic contractions followed by relaxation.

At each use, position the device with the cups at the corners of the mouth lips able to close. Bring the lips over the teeth (do not purse lips, but flatten them). Contract them for two seconds to engage increased force of the elastic, then relax; do repeats for the full two minutes. Stronger elastics can progressively be used, starting with 4 oz (if lip strength is weak or facial muscles quiver and fatigue easily), then 6 oz (standard), 8 oz., and 14 oz. Replace elastic once a week (orthodontic latex elastics), as they loose their elasticity. Replacements can be ordered separately.

Clean device by washing with water. Position the head, stretching slightly forward as the lip and anterior neck muscles (platysma) contract, then relax with head back into a neutral posture. Stop the exercise if fatigue or head/neck/TMJ pain develops, rest the tissues, and apply deep muscle massage.

The use of a skin moisturizer is recommended prior to exercise. Application primarily at night is said to be more effective for skin absorption, healing/collagen repair, as there is less orofacial/lip and jaw muscle motor activity.

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