Jaw Clenching Oral Motor Problems | The OT Toolbox

Jaw Clenching Oral Motor Problems

You may have seen some of the oral motor problems posts in a recent series we've had here on The OT Toolbox.  We've been talking all about oral motor skills and today brings another in that series.  If you missed any of those posts, you can find all of the past posts on oral motor skills and how they relate to feeding here.   

Below you'll find information related to jay clenching oral motor issues and the reasons that this particular oral motor problem occurs.  You'll also find feeding issues that may ensue from jaw clenching.

Jaw clenching is an oral motor problem that interferes with feeding and eating. Help to understand jaw clenching and reasons it might occur.

Jaw Clenching Oral Motor Problems

Jaw clenching occurs when the jaw moves into a tight position as a result of body movements and the ability to open the mouth occurs. Jaw clenching can result in shortening of jaw musculature and contractures.  This leads to anatomical inability to open the mouth.

It's possible that the observation of a clenched jaw in feeding may be confused with stability biting and tonic bite response. 

Teeth grinding can occur as a result of a clenched jaw.

Jaw clenching occurs because of several reasons:


Poor posture with overall flexion

Over-Stimulating sensory environment

Increased stress

Impaired control of jaw movements
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Feeding issues related to jaw clenching:


When a child presents with a clenched jaw, their ability to develop the skills needed for feeding are greatly impacted.  

They cannot utilize rhythm in eating and drinking. 

Initiation or sustained movement patterns during eating and drinking are impacted.

Oral Motor Exercises
Looking for oral motor exercises?  Grab this FREE printable pack of oral motor exercises, including 20 different feeding therapy ideas AND 20 oral motor exercises.  These are treatement ideas for oral motor problems that professionals can utilize over and over again. 

If you are looking for more information on pediatric feeding, you will be interested in a pediatric feeding course being offered by my occupational therapist friend, Alisha who writes at Your Kid's Table.  

Pediatric Feeding 101 is an online course designed for therapists and professionals supporting or working with families that are facing feeding challenges.  This is an entry level course and is an introduction to pediatric feeding in general, but focuses on 3 different areas of early childhood eating:

  1. Milestones (transitioning to table foods, how to drink from a straw, how to use utensils, etc.)
  2. Structure and Routine at Meals (the foundation to creating healthy eating habits that last a lifetime)
  3. Picky Eating (how to help picky eaters using no-pressure techniques and exploration)

Each of these areas are taught in its own module through a video lesson and accompanying slides that are downloadable and printable. You will also receive 6 additional handouts that you can keep and share with the families you work with.  These handouts include:

  1. The Feeding Milestones Checklist
  2. Feeding Schedules Template (for children from 6 months to 12 years old)
  3. How to Create A No-Pressure Eating Environment Quick Guide
  4. The 5 Step Picky Eater Solution Plan
  5. Resources Guide (list of links and additional literature)
  6. Feeding History Form (for Parents and Caregivers to fill out)


Jaw clenching is an oral motor problem that interferes with feeding and eating. Help to understand jaw clenching and reasons it might occur.

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