You may have experienced a pop or click sound from your jaw as you eat or yawn. Usually, there is nothing concerning about this sound, but there are some instances when jaw clicking could be indicative of jaw trouble, like temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).
Jaw clicking is one of the symptoms of TMD. But not all pops and clicks mean that you are experiencing problems with your TMJ – temporomandibular joint. The TMJ is the joint connecting the side of your face (temporal bone) to your lower jaw. Its primary function is to open and close the jaw.
Any clicking sound associated with TMD implies that there is some damage to the bones, cartilage, or ligaments connecting the TMJ; in which case, you should schedule an appointment with your TMJ specialist.
How to know when the noise is TMJ related
The most common kind of jaw clicking occurs when the jaws are at their widest, like when yawning or opening your mouth wide for a big bite. This type of clicking is associated with subluxation, which is caused by the lower jaw bone passing over a ridge in the upper jaw bone. Dental professionals claim that this is a normal occurrence resulting from a hyperextended jaw.
The other more concerning type of popping occurs when the cartilage-like disc inside the joint is displaced. The clicking occurs somewhat quietly when closing, as the disc slips forward of the lower jaw bone. When you open again, there is a louder crack or pop as the disc repositions itself onto the lower jaw condyle.
The second kind of pop can occur when talking, chewing, or just opening your mouth, and is usually loud enough for people around you to hear. Because the ligament controlling the disc is stretched, plus the muscles controlling jaw movement are affected by the dysfunction, you may experience some pain.
Remedy for jaw clicking
It is important that you see a specialist when you experience jaw clicking, especially if it is painful. If this is the first time you’re experiencing the symptoms, try reducing your jaw function by switching to a softer diet, or try to relax your jaw if you find yourself clenching. Basically, you will need to identify what your jaw can tolerate and avoid foods that cause your jaw to hurt, at least until it begins to feel more relaxed.
If the popping is caused by an injury to the jaw, it’s recommended that you wait for 2-3 weeks to see if it resolves on its own. But if the clicking persists, it could be indicative of an inflammatory condition or strain to the muscles that may eventually lead to some arthritic joint degeneration, which then limits jaw function and changes your bite.
In such cases, you should visit your TMJ specialist for a proper diagnosis and treatment, possibly with an inter-oral appliance (dental splint) to create a buffer for the jaw and teeth to function properly for maximum stability.