Hearing an unsettling clicking sound in your jaw whenever you chew, talk or yawn? Perhaps your jaw has been ‘popping’ and causing pain? If so, it’s likely due to an issue with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
If you’re experiencing jaw clicking or popping, read on to discover what could be causing this condition and how TMJ disorders can be treated, so you can continue your normal activities without clicking, popping or pain.
What is the temporomandibular joint?
Your TMJ connects your lower jaw to the temporal bones in your face, allowing your jaw to move sideways, backwards and forwards. The TMJ is one of the most complex joints in your body.
The TMJ is responsible for providing the range of motion you need to do things like eat and speak, as well as move your jaw during actions such as yawning or opening your mouth wide.
What causes a clicking jaw?
Jaw popping and clicking is caused by a dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint, which can be caused by a range of factors including:
● Clenching your jaw
● Grinding your teeth (bruxism)
● Biting your fingernails
● Biting your lip or cheeks
● Chewing gum excessively
In most cases, jaw clicking or popping isn’t a cause for concern. However, if you’re experiencing pain in your jaw in addition to the clicking sounds, you should visit your dentist to have the issue examined.
Is it bad if my jaw clicks?
The good news is that jaw clicking and popping is not necessarily a bad sign - it’s actually quite common and usually completely harmless.
This is especially common when you open your mouth wide to yawn.
It’s only really ‘bad’ if the clicking or popping comes with a painful sensation. In this case, the pain can be a sign that something is out of place, and needs medical attention to alleviate or fix.
In short, clicking and popping will only really need attention if it’s causing you discomfort. If not, you can always mention it to your dentist during your next check up so they can take a closer look just in case.
What causes TMJ?
In more serious cases, jaw clicking or popping will be due to an underlying medical condition that has caused the TMJ issue. These conditions can include the following:
Arthritis (both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis) can damage the cartilage of the TMJ, resulting in additional pressure on the joint socket whenever you move your jaw.
Injury or trauma to the jaw
If you dislocate or break your jaw as a result of an accident, the unhinging of the joint can lead to jaw clicking and popping.
Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS)
This chronic pain disorder is caused by repeated contraction of muscles over time, resulting in pain in the trigger points of these muscles. MPS is more common in people who engage in jobs or activities that require repetitive movements.
Other symptoms of TMJ issues in people who have MPS include:
● Jaw pain that doesn’t improve after a week
● Jaw pain that worsens with straining or stretching
● Painful knots in jaw muscles
● Reduced range of motion in the jaw
In people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the jaw will clamp down to prevent the airway from being blocked, which results in a lot of stress on the jaw, mouth, neck and shoulders. This can result in TMJ issues.
An infection of the salivary gland can cause TMJ issues and jaw popping, as well as other symptoms such as:
● Dry mouth
● Facial pain
● Pus in the mouth
● A persistent foul taste in the mouth
● Swelling of the face and neck.
If you think you may have an infection, you should see your doctor.
How do I get my jaw to stop clicking?
Treatment for jaw clicking, popping and TMJ disorders vary depending on the underlying cause and the symptoms.
At-home remedies to relieve jaw pain include:
Taking over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation. If pain persists, make an appointment to see your dentist.
Applying an ice pack to the jaw for 10-15 minutes, followed by a warm compress for 5-10 minutes (can be performed several times a day).
Avoiding hard, crunchy or chewy foods and stick to softer foods like yoghurt, cooked vegetables, rice and bread.
Avoiding activities that involve opening the mouth too wide, such as singing or chewing gum.
If your TMJ issue requires medical treatment, this may include a custom mouthguard to manage teeth grinding and jaw clenching, prescribed medications to manage the pain of TMJ disorders, and laser therapy to help stimulate movement and ease pain in the jaw.
If your jaw popping or clicking is caused by dental issues such as an underbite, overbite, or misaligned teeth, we can recommend a range of treatments to help correct these conditions, from orthodontic treatments to oral surgery.
Should I see a dentist for a clicking jaw?
If your jaw clicks and it’s causing you pain or discomfort, you may have a TMJ disorder. If you want to have your concerns answered, speak to one of our friendly National Dental Care dentists.
Find a dental practice and book an appointment today.