My Jaw Clicks and Pops When I Chew. Is It TMJ Disorder?

What to do when your jaw clicks and pops

How To Tell If TMD Is To Blame for Your Jaw Discomfort

TMJ disorders (TMDs) are some of the most widely misunderstood conditions out there. Despite being so common, many people are unaware of the symptoms and what they mean. If your jaw clicks and pops, it certainly could indicate a TMJ disorder. However, there are other symptoms to watch for and other potential causes to consider.

Other Reasons Your Jaw Clicks and Pops

Have you noticed that your jaw clicks and pops when opening or closing your mouth? If so, there are a variety of potential underlying causes. The best way to find out which specific issues, if any, are at work is to schedule a visit with your dentist.

TMD is among the most common causes of a clicking or popping jaw. The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are the joints that allow your lower jaw to open and close. They each consist of an articular disc, allowing for a wide range of movement.

However, this complex and regularly used joint can develop a range of issues. TMD can result from damage to the disc itself or inflammation in the surrounding muscles and tissues. This can lead to clicking and popping, among other symptoms.

But TMD is far from the only cause of strange noises coming from your jaw. First, your jaw can make a clicking noise when you open wide, even without anything being wrong. However, keep in mind that regularly overextending your jaw can cause TMD and other issues.

Like other joints, the TMJ can develop arthritis. This condition causes damage to the cartilage of the joint, which then leads to abnormal movement. You can experience clicks, pops, pain, and restricted range of motion. 

The noises from your jaw could be a sign that it is broken or dislocated. If you’ve experienced physical trauma, a previously undetected jaw fracture is possible, though this is rare. In most cases, you’ll experience swelling, numbness, or bruising.

Several other issues could cause jaw clicks and pops as well, such as a tumor in the area or infection in the glands around the jaw.

Additional TMD Symptoms To Watch Out For

If you’re experiencing clicking or popping in your jaw, you should reach out to your dentist for an evaluation. Even if it isn’t TMD, they can determine the root cause or refer you to the appropriate TMJ specialist. Let’s look at some additional symptoms you can watch for that may indicate that you have TMD.

Difficulty opening or closing the jaw is one common TMD symptom. You may experience pain when moving your jaw or even have your jaw lock open or closed.

Feeling pain directly in the joints, which are located on either side of the head and slightly in front of the ears, is another red flag. You might also feel pain radiating to other areas of the face or pain that feels like a toothache or earache. This type of discomfort can even extend to the neck and shoulders.

Dizziness and ringing in your ears are other potential symptoms due to the proximity of the TMJs to the ears. Headaches are a common complaint of TMD patients and are often associated with teeth grinding, or bruxism.

Untreated TMD can also lead to muscle spasms in the face. These spasms can affect other nerves and cause tingling or numbness in the fingers, a symptom that few people associate with TMD.

Your dentist is the right person to evaluate your TMD symptoms.

You might think that going to a general practitioner is the first step in dealing with TMD, but your dentist is better equipped to carry out the initial evaluation. TMD is often associated with issues like bruxism, bite misalignment, sleep apnea, and other conditions that your dentist deals with on a regular basis.

You should schedule an appointment with your dentist to have an evaluation as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can follow a few simple tips to relieve any soreness:

  • Try to eat soft foods.
  • Avoid chewing gum.
  • Use ibuprofen or hot or cold packs to relieve inflammation.
  • Gently massage the area to relieve muscle tension.

Your dentist will be able to provide more guidance during your visit.

Your Dentist in Newport Beach, CA

If you’re experiencing any potential TMD symptoms, visit Dr. Desai at Luminous Smiles for a complete evaluation. She can determine whether TMD is the culprit or if other dental concerns are causing your symptoms and will work with you to form a customized treatment plan. Reach out today to schedule your appointment.