If you experience a popping or clicking sensation in your jaw when you open or close your mouth, you're not alone. An estimated 12% of the adult population struggles with these symptoms in any given year.
One of the most common causes of popping or clicking in the jaw is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. However, there can be many underlying causes of this disorder. In this blog, David Epstein, DDS, and Nikita Vakil, DMD, of The Woodlands Dental Group in The Woodlands, Texas, explain what temporomandibular joint disorder is, why it can develop, and some of the ways it can be treated.
The basics of your temporomandibular joints
You have two temporomandibular joints, one on each side of your face. These joints attach your lower jaw to your skull. Furthermore, they allow you to move your lower jaw from side to side, and they also allow you to open and close your mouth.
For practical purposes, these joints help you chew, speak, and yawn. Because you use these joints so much, you may hear popping or clicking often if you have a TMJ disorder.
Common causes of temporomandibular joint disorder
Temporomandibular joint disorder is a condition in which one or both of these joints becomes damaged or inflamed. This disorder doesn’t have a single cause. In fact, it can be caused by a number of factors, such as the following:
Bruxism, which is also referred to as teeth clenching or teeth grinding, often happens during sleep. Because of this, it can be difficult to recognize this condition on your own. A clenched jaw can exert 250 pounds of pressure on your teeth and jaw joints. Not only can this increase your risk for TMJ pain, but it can also lead to chipped or cracked teeth.
Arthritis can occur in any joint, including in your temporomandibular joints. If you develop arthritis in your jaw, the affected joints can become stiff and painful, and you may experience popping or clicking in your jaw.
If you have arthritis in your jaw, you may benefit from anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support your jaw, or lifestyle modifications to help you manage your symptoms.
Stress can also contribute to jaw popping. When you're stressed, you may clench your jaw or grind your teeth, which can put additional pressure on your jaw joints. Over time, this could lead to popping or clicking.
To reduce the impact of stress on your jaw, try to find ways to relax and manage your stress levels. This could include practicing yoga, meditation, or other relaxation techniques.
Another common cause of jaw popping is a misaligned bite. If your teeth don't fit together properly, this could put stress on your jaw joints, which could lead to popping or clicking. A misaligned bite can be caused by a number of factors, such as genetics, trauma, or dental work.
If your misaligned bite is causing your jaw to make popping sounds, we may recommend orthodontic treatment with clear aligners to realign your teeth.
Get help for your popping jaw
If your jaw pops or clicks, we can thoroughly evaluate your jaw and design a treatment plan.
If you're experiencing persistent jaw popping or discomfort, the first step is to find out what’s causing it. For example, if you suffer from bruxism, we may recommend getting a custom night guard. These appliances keep the lower and upper teeth separated, which can reduce stress on your jaw and thereby relieve symptoms.
Or, if your teeth are misaligned, we can give you clear aligners to straighten your teeth and prevent your jaws from being forced into an unnatural position. No matter your case, we can thoroughly evaluate your jaw and design a treatment plan to help you get the relief you need.
To learn how we can help you, call 281-367-3085 to book an appointment with The Woodlands Dental Group today.