Jaw Popping

Leena Palande Apr 10, 2019
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Does your jaw pop every time you eat? Does it hurt? If answer to these questions is 'yes', then you are on the right page. Read some information on jaw popping causes, treatment and how simple dietary changes promote smooth and silent opening of the jaw.
Those who complain about 'popping jaw' usually have the habit of grinding their teeth very often or they have the habit of night clenching. Dentists say that jaw popping is very common.
The 'smooth and silent' opening of your mouth is possible when the muscles supporting your jaws work in harmony. Exhausted or overworked muscles won't pull together evenly and may result in popping jaw. You must have perhaps experienced this while chewing a tough steak.
Sometimes, while eating, one muscle pulls one way, another pulls in the opposite direction or doesn't move at all - and you hear jaw clicking sound. On the odd occasions others can also hear the sound! Jaw popping is not considered as a serious problem unless and until there exists a structural problem.

Causes of Jaw Popping

An occasional discomfort experienced in the jaw joint or chewing muscles is quite common. More serious problems with the jaw joint are known as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). Causes of pain, discomfort and a popping sound while opening or closing the jaw may vary from person to person.
  • Over stretched supporting muscles of the jaw joint
  • Overused joint
  • Jaw joint partially slipping out of the socket
  • Supporting muscles or the ligaments are out of alignment.
  • Bony portions of the joint don't align properly.
  • Teeth grinding or bruxism, the nightly clenching and grinding of the teeth at times of stress
According to the available statistics, nine out of ten people whose jaws click, often gnash their teeth, which can eventually lead to the deterioration of the jaw. Jaw clicking is irritating, mainly because it's audible.
But doctors can't do much about it. If you have facial pain or if the jawbones and muscles are deteriorating, then doctors can recommend proper treatment or medication to relieve pain. Jaw clicking or popping implies that your joints are tremendously stressed. Pain in the jaw joint is sometimes mistaken for an earache or a headache.

Test

This test will help you check the condition of TMJ on your own. Put the tips of your little fingers inside ear canal. Now gently press the fingers forward. This way, you will be pressing directly on the TMJ. If this causes pain, you probably have TMJ overuse. You may take some precautionary measures to avoid continuous strain on your jaw joint and muscles.

Symptoms

One or more of the following symptoms are observed in case of jaw popping.
  • A clicking or popping in the temporomandibular joint
  • Popping sound when chewing
  • Jaw pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Headache
  • Stiffness or difficulty opening and closing the mouth
  • Damage caused to the inside part of the cheeks
The popping sound usually comes from the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint is located between the jaw and the side of the skull. It is about half an inch in front of your ears. The popping sound indicates that the joint is being stressed.
The joint can be partially slipping out of the socket (subluxation). This slippage is observed commonly in people with a dental misalignment such as an overbite or an underbite. Grinding the teeth, called bruxism, can also exert pressure on the TMJ and wear down the surface of the teeth.

Treatment

  • Avoid chewing gum.
  • Never chew tough meat or vegetables.
  • Stay away from triple-decker sandwiches and burgers.
  • To avoid night clenching, the dentists may ask you to wear 'soft mouthpiece' at night.
  • Try to break the habit of clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth.
  • Try to decrease your use of the jaw muscle in general. Stop eating hard candy and thick-crusted bread and stop breaking nuts with your teeth.
  • In case of mild symptoms, certain jaw and TMJ exercises can help get rid of the stress on the jaw and the joint.
  • A soft diet or liquid diet foods can help rest the joint for a few days.
  • Massage and a warm pack over the muscles can reduce the pain.
  • You may have to take mild analgesics or anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen over several days so as to reduce the inflammation.
  • In extremely rare cases the jaw actually gets dislocated. Such case will require prompt and proper medical attention to put the jaw back in alignment.
Injections and dental work may be needed in some rare cases but home remedies usually resolve the problem in 5 to 15 days. If none of the above measures work, see your dentist to check on your jaw alignment. Popping jaw is normally not a cause for concern.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.