Have you ever heard your jaw click or pop? Well, you’re not alone, it is a common quirk of the jaw aka your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). These joints connect your jawbone to your skull and form a hinge. This allows you to talk, chew and yawn. Sometimes they click or make funny noises. The clicking is fairly normal, however, for some people, it can cause pain and limited function. This may indicate temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD).
In this article, we will answer the question, ‘why does my jaw click?’. We will discuss symptoms and some possible causes.
Why does my jaw click?
The temporomandibular joint is unique. You have one joint in front of each ear that connects your skull and jawbone. Try placing your fingers on each one and open and close your mouth, you’ll be able to feel the joints working.
The reason they are so unique is their flexibility. Allowing your jaw to open and close, move back and forth and side to side. They are complex joints. It’s no wonder they may occasionally make a few funny sounds or deliver weird sensations. This is pretty normal and only becomes a problem if it starts to cause pain or limit movement of your jaw. You may experience jaw clicking if you:
- Clench your jaw
- Grind your teeth
- Overextend your jaw
- Frequently chew gum
- Bite your fingernails
- Bite your lips or cheeks
If you experience a lot of jaw clicking and popping as well as discomfort it could be a sign of TMD.
What is TMD?
Temporomandibular dysfunction is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint and/or muscles. According to the Australian Journal of Medical Practice TMD affects 60-70% of the population. Interestingly, it is four times more likely to affect women than men. The reason for this is unknown. Although it is a common condition, only a small percentage of people who suffer from TMD require treatment. Let’s take a look at some of the signs and symptoms of TMD:
- Painful and constant jaw clicking and popping
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw
- Pain that radiates down your face, neck and shoulders
- A change in your bite – that is how your upper and lower teeth fit together
- Headaches, dizziness, hearing issues and earaches
Causes of TMD
There are many different causes of TMD. If you’ve ever asked yourself, ‘why does my jaw click?’, below are a few possibly reasons why:
Clenching and grinding your teeth
Clenching and grinding teeth are common traits. It is something people often do subconsciously or while they are asleep. This makes it difficult to break the habit. Excessive grinding and clenching can cause TMD. This is because the joints get strained and overused. It may cause your jaw to become locked or stuck in place and limit your movement.
One solution for teeth grinding is to wear a special mouthguard at night-time. If you are someone who clenches during the day, try some relaxation methods. You may even like to give yourself facial massages each morning and night.
Arthritis can damage the cartilage surrounding the temporomandibular joints. This cartilage is there to protect the joints. When it becomes damaged the joints will too. This can cause TMD. It can cause quite a lot of pain in the joints. Placing heat on the joints (like a little hot pack) may cause temporary pain relief. However, arthritis requires long term treatment from a medical professional.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS)
MPS is a chronic condition that causes muscle pain. It may involve a single or group of muscles. It usually occurs as a result of muscle overuse or repeated injury. MPS in the jaw can cause TMD. It can cause pain or spasm in the muscles in your jaw. Some treatments include physiotherapy, medication and local injections.
Should I be worried?
Jaw clicking is fairly normal, many people will experience it in their lifetime. If you are concerned you may have TMD then it is best to speak to a medical professional. Your dentist will be able to diagnose TMD and talk you through treatment options. Luckily the condition is often temporary and can be relieved with simple lifestyle changes.
How Dental on York can help
If you’ve been wondering, ‘why does my jaw click?’, and it’s leaving you feeling concerned, then give us a call. We can offer diagnosis and personalised treatment plans. Your health and comfort are our number one priority.