Jaw popping may not seem like a big deal if it’s not accompanied by pain. But it’s definitely not normal — and it absolutely needs to be evaluated.

Arthritis, jaw injury, and even infections can all cause clicking and popping when you bite or chew. But often, those annoying noises are caused by a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), which is a jaw problem that affects about 12 million Americans.

TMJ is actually a collection of more than 30 disorders that affect jaw function. Specifically, these disorders involve the temporomandibular joints, which are located just below each ear. Without proper management, these disorders can permanently damage the joints, which can cause chronic, lifelong symptoms, such as jaw pain, bite problems, and headaches.

Michael Moawad, DMD, Jessica Listwa, DMD, and the team at Dental Arts of Hoboken in Hoboken, New Jersey, offer advanced TMJ treatment options. In this post, they explain why TMJ happens and how you can get relief.

Jaw anatomy and TMJ disorders

Your temporomandibular joints are located just below your ears, where the lower jaw meets the temporal bone of your skull. TMJ disorders typically occur when the joint alignment changes, altering the way the joint works.

Sometimes, an alignment issue is caused by trauma, uneven jaw growth, or arthritis. But often, it’s caused by another issue that interferes with your normal bite balance. These issues can include missing teeth, crooked teeth, or grinding habits that put excess strain on the jaw joints.

Over time, uneven pressure on the jaw joints causes increased friction inside the joint, which can lead to chronic pain and inflammation. It can also lead to popping or clicking noises or the sensation that your jaw “sticks” when you open your mouth wide. Without prompt treatment, many people with TMJ develop other issues, such as chronic headaches, facial pain, and earaches.

Treating TMJ

The goal of TMJ treatment is to realign the jaw joint and normalize its function to prevent excess strain on the joint structures. As a result, your specific treatment may vary, depending on what’s causing your symptoms.

Most patients benefit from a combination of medication or other therapies and lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Pain medication
  • Stress reduction
  • Night guards to prevent grinding and clenching
  • Replacing missing teeth
  • Repairing damaged teeth
  • Orthodontics to align the bite
  • Injections to relieve muscle spasms

In very severe cases where these conservative options are ineffective, surgery can help realign the jaw and address structural problems interfering with jaw function.

If you have TMJ, you should limit how much gum you chew and reduce your consumption of chewy foods to avoid overworking your jaw joints. However, you may want to engage in gentle jaw-stretching exercises, which may help relieve pain and inflammation.

Don’t ignore your jaw symptoms

TMJ is one common cause of jaw popping, but there are other issues that can cause popping and clicking. If your jaw pops or clicks, the first thing you need to do is have your jaw examined. Then we can diagnose the issue and design a treatment plan to help you get relief.

To schedule your evaluation, call 201-429-3641 or request an appointment online with the team at Dental Arts of Hoboken today.

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