Jaw-Popping: Party Trick Or Something Serious?

What’s Behind The Jaw Pop and What You Can Do

Did you know that your Temporomandibular Joints (or TMJ) are some of the most complex joints in your body? They are quite unique than other joints in that they’re not only able to open and close – they can slide back and forth and go from side to side. Sometimes the TMJ can pop or make clicking noise and sensation when you open your mouth wide. Fortunately, it’s not always a problem.

If popping your jaw causes you pain or uncomfortable symptoms like jaw stiffness, then you might be dealing with some form of TMJ disorder. When you open and close your mouth, you might feel any one of these symptoms – painful clicking or popping, jaw stiffness, feeling your jaw is “locking”, trouble opening your mouth, general jaw pain, or a change in your bite. This is according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).

What causes TMJ disorders?

Sometimes it’s not always clear, but there seems something wrong with the cartilage disc inside each of the joints. They’re called articular discs, slippery pieces of tissue supposed to prevent the skull and jawbone from grinding against each other. For instance, when you pop your jaw, there might be pain when one or both of the articular discs have been pushed forward from their usual location. This is a form of internal temporomandibular joint derangement, due to habits like clenching and grinding teeth severely or chewing gum until the jaw is exhausted.

Some experts say that jaw popping itself without associated pain does not require any intervention. The disc or both of them could be worn or irregularly shaped, but not severely enough to cause discomfort. Or maybe, the ligaments just happen to be extra-elastic and allow the lower half of the jaw to shift down causing a popping sound.

A dentist or doctor will physically examine you, listening to and feeling your jaw when you open and close your mouth, investigating the range of motion in your jaw, and pressing on areas around your jaw to see where you feel pain or discomfort. A CT scan can show problems with your jaw’s discs. In some cases, a TMJ arthroscopy can be done which involves inserting a small thin tube into the joint space, followed by a small camera.

If the diagnosis is a TMJ disorder, your specialist may recommend pain relievers like NSAIDs with muscle relaxants for a few days or weeks. An oral splint or special mouth guard, doing physical therapy, and behavioral changes (example, techniques to avoid teeth grinding) may be prescribed. In severe cases, it may be surgery to repair the joints or corticosteroid injections to ease inflammation and pain.


Examining Your Jaw Pops in Lynnwood

Are you experiencing popping in your jaws every now and then? Is it accompanied by pain and discomfort, or not? Come to us and let’s have a look-see so you’ll know if there’s nothing to worry about.