Jaw Instability Oral Motor Problems

jaw instability

Have you been following along on our oral motor series this past week? You can find all of the posts related to oral motor skills and how they relate to feeding on the site. Each area will be addressed along with reasons why abnormal oral motor problems occur and their influence on eating and drinking. Be sure to check out the past oral motor problem posts and come back as the remaining areas are addressed in upcoming posts.

Jaw instability is an oral motor problem that results in impaired eating and drinking skills.

Jaw Instability and Oral Motor Problems

Jaw instability is observed when the jaw slips and shifts due to inefficient tone and control, resulting in a child who opens and closes the mouth to reset positioning.  Jaw instability is also observed in the child who holds their mouth closed in a tense open position or closed by biting.

Jaw instability occurs because of several reasons:

  • Laxity of the temporomandibular joint
  • Delayed development of jaw stability due to hypotonia
  • Structural problems at the temporomandibular joint
  • Poor control of the jaw
  • Poor grading of movement patterns
  • Poor isolation of jaw movements from the body

Read more about development of oral motor skills.

Feeding issues related to jaw instability:

When a child presents with jaw instability, every aspect of eating and drinking are affected.

  • Difficulties present in the use of cheeks, lips, and tongue in coordinated eating and drinking when jaw instability is present.
  • Controlled biting and chewing occur.
  • Positioning the jaw when not chewing can be uncomfortable, painful, or difficult.
  • Graded biting and chewing can be difficult.
  • The child might experience more stability with biting and chewing motions when approaching food from the side of the mouth.

Looking for ways to address jaw instability?

Oral Motor Exercises for the Jaw

Be sure to check out this resource on oral motor exercises to begin.

Specifically with the jaw, certain oral motor exercises can support mobility and motor coordination to support eating, drinking, and overall jaw instability:

  1. Vibrating toothbrush
  2. Vibrating toys
  3. Sensory chew tools
  4. Baby teethers
  5. Mesh feeding bags with sour, sweet, and cold foods
  6. Foods that offer heavy feedback through the jaws: fruit leather, licorice, dry fruit, cranberries, raisins, etc.
Jaw instability is an oral motor problem that results in impaired eating and drinking skills.