How Facial Exercises Can Benefit People With Parkinson’s

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by Jo Gambosi |

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In my recent column about oral health, I discussed how some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD), such as facial stiffness and decreased tone and strength in the jaw, tongue, and facial muscles, can lead to dental problems. These issues, combined with dry mouth and decreased amounts of saliva, can also affect swallowing.

The facial and jaw problems associated with PD can also lead to temporomandibular disorders (TMD). An explainer by American Family Physician notes that, “Temporomandibular disorders … affect the jaw and the muscles you use to chew and open your mouth. It is sometimes incorrectly called TMJ, but this refers to only the jaw joint itself.”

Interestingly, TMD occurs more frequently in people with PD than their healthy counterparts. A study published in the journal PLOS One found that “PD patients had an increased risk of TMD compared to the matched controls, with the difference being significant for 2 years after the diagnosis of PD.”

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Let’s Face It: Mindful Mouth Movements Are Needed

Proactive steps

So, how can someone with PD be proactive in addressing these issues?

Facial exercises are one way that PD patients can improve their speaking and swallowing. According to the Jaslok Hospital’s functional neurosurgery department, benefits include improved speech, reduced tension in the face, strengthened tongue, jaw, and facial muscles, and improved chewing and eating abilities. Jaw exercises may also help PD patients improve their quality of life and oral health, as Parkinson’s News Today‘s Marisa Wexler reported in June.

The Cleveland Clinic shares several additional facial exercises that can help PD patients with swallowing and speaking:

  • “Chew your food longer and more vigorously.
  • “Exaggerate your face and lip movements when you speak.
  • “Sing or read out loud.”

My sister, Bev, who has stage 3 PD, started speech therapy for her swallowing issues this year. To help with swallowing and speech, the therapist recommended taking smaller bites of food, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, eating more slowly, and sitting upright while eating.

Theresa Conroy, a certified yoga instructor and founder of Yoga for Parkinson’s, offers a free, short video on her website in which she demonstrates facial yoga exercises that can help people with PD. She also offers additional yoga exercise videos, as well as training courses for anyone interested in becoming a certified instructor.

For those of us without PD who are hoping to chisel our jawlines and chins, one option is Jawzrsize, a facial fitness device.

Chin up, everyone!


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Lois Brooks avatar

Lois Brooks

Chewing gum is a great help


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