Clicking and popping could be a red flag, especially if it’s coming from your jaw. Joint sounds are often an early sign of Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder. While not all popping sounds necessarily point to this condition, clicking noises should always be assessed by your dentist.
Some of the most intricate joints in the human body, the temporomandibular joints are necessary for one to open and close their mouth, speak, and swallow. They are positioned where the lower jaw attaches to the skull. If you place your hand on the side of your face anterior to your ears and move your mouth open and shut, you can feel the movement of the mandible in the temporomandibular joints.
It has been said that the difference between a TMJ disorder and healthy, normal jaw movement is only one millimeter. In some cases, clicking of the jaw may be normal; but if jaw pain or popping becomes a concern, be sure to talk to your dentist. Some possible causes of TMJ disorder include the following:
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has constituted a wide variety of treatments. They encourage the use of simple solutions to try first before moving on to more involved treatment. Some of these include:
- Applying heat to reduce pain
- Avoiding chewing gum and nails
- Eating softer foods
- Trying meditation or biofeedback to help relax and control jaw tension
If necessary, further treatment can be initiated under the direction of your doctor:
- A night guard or bite palate to decrease clenching or grinding of teeth
- Medications prescribed by your doctor
- Other exercises to help strengthen jaw muscles
- Orthodontic treatment or reshaping of teeth