It’s important to exercise to keep your heart and muscles strong. But what about exercising the muscles that make up your mouth? Is it important to work out the part of your body that helps you talk, chew, and smile?
Recently, a movement around mouth and facial exercises has emerged that claims to slim and tone the face. Do these claims have any truth behind them? Keep reading to find out things to know about mouth exercises before starting your regimen.
Anatomy class: Facial muscles vs. other muscles in the body
According to an article from Science Direct, the muscles that make up your face “exhibit muscle fiber density equal to other skeletal muscles such as the biceps and tibialis anterior.” However, the mechanics of facial muscle movement are very different than a leg or arm muscle.
Your mouth is composed of nearly 20 specialized muscles that help you chew, swallow, talk, make facial expressions, and more. According to the University of Hawaii, the muscles that make up your mouth and face are unique because they “create facial movements and expressions by pulling on the skin—no bone movements are involved.” This is different from other muscles in the body that rely on the skeleton to create movement.
So, the muscles that make up your face and body are nearly identical on a cellular level. The main difference is that the muscles in your legs and arms can only contract and relax to move the bone they are attached to. In contrast, the muscles in your face are mostly attached to skin and don’t rely on bones for movement.
Building facial muscles through mouth exercises for improved appearance
Facial muscles work differently than other muscles in the body. Does that mean they can’t be strengthened like other muscles? The answer isn’t that simple.
One reason you don’t see people walking around with bulging muscles in their face is because it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put facial muscles under the same stress that other muscles in the body encounter through actions such as weightlifting.
Clearly, lifting heavy weights with facial muscles isn’t ideal. But can less intense facial and mouth exercises provide the same benefit?
A small study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association for Dermatology suggests that certain facial exercises, if performed daily, may improve the facial appearance in middle-aged women. The study concluded that “a regimen of at-home facial exercises maintained for 20 weeks seemed to improve mid-face and lower face fullness” and that “Further research is warranted to isolate the causes and effects of exercise-related changes and to assess the generalizability of these findings.”
Participating in daily facial and mouth exercises may help tighten muscles in your mouth. However, most medical experts agree that losing excess weight is the best option if you’re looking to truly slim down the look of your face.
Mouth exercises to improve side effects of medical conditions
While mouth exercises may not be the answer to having a toned face, certain exercises can help improve the quality of life for people with medical conditions that impact their facial muscles.
Some medical conditions that may impact facial muscle function include:
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome: A syndrome in which the immune system attacks the nerves in the body. It can lead to muscle weakness, breathing problems, and other side effects.
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS): MS damages nerve fibers and can lead to muscle weakness overtime.
- Head and neck cancer: Tumors may impact facial muscles function as they grow.
- Stroke: A stroke can cause facial weakness, droopiness, or paralysis. Stroke victims may have to relearn how to speak, chew, or swallow.
- Bells Palsy: A “neurological disorder that causes paralysis or weakness on one side of the face. One of the nerves that controls muscles in your face becomes injured or stops working properly.”
- Systemic sclerosis: A condition that affects the skin, leading to hardening or tightening. People with this condition can have trouble opening their mouth and may find it hard to maintain good oral health care.
For people living with the conditions listed above, or any other condition that impacts their facial muscles, strategic mouth exercises may help them regain some or all function. A sample of these mouth exercises include:
- Lip-closure exercises: Exercises meant to help improve swallowing, increase lip strength and mobility, and control over the muscles that aid in the action of swallowing.
- Mouth opening exercises with aid from medical devices: Opening the mouth may be difficult for some patients with head and neck cancer. This can impact their ability to eat, chew, swallow, etc. A study in the journal “Clinical Oral Investigations” suggests a combination of mouth exercises and mouth opening devices can help people strengthen their jaw and tongue muscles.
- Orofacial exercise programs: Exercises that are typically preformed at home with help of a visual diagram that can reduce the effects of certain medical conditions such as systemic sclerosis.
If you’re experiencing any new symptoms that are impacting your facial function, it’s important to speak with a medical professional right away. Always talk to your doctor before engaging in any new mouth exercise programs.
The truth behind mouth exercises
When it comes to mouth exercises, it’s not clear whether they can truly improve the look of your face. However, participating in facial yoga isn’t dangerous and could have some benefits.
It’s important to note that mouth exercises are not a cure for oral health problems such as an overbite. Make sure to see your dentist twice a year so that they can monitor any changes in your bite.