Why Does My Jaw Pop When I Chew?

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Why Does My Jaw Pop When I Chew?

Jaw popping and clicking are common symptoms of a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), a chronic jaw problem affecting as many as 12 million Americans. TMJ arises from issues affecting the joints on either side of your jaw, and treating those problems and the conditions that cause them is at the root of eliminating TMD symptoms.

At Tomase Dental Care, Timothy Tomase, DDS, helps patients in Toledo, Ohio, relieve TMJ along with its symptoms. In this post, learn why TMJ causes popping and clicking symptoms and how we can help restore jaw health and function.

TMJ and jaw anatomy

The temporomandibular joint forms where the temporal bone of your skull meets the mandible, or lower jawbone. Inside the joint is a tiny disc that helps cushion the joint and prevent joint damage. The disc and bones rely on proper alignment in order to function normally and without pain.

TMJ usually occurs when this alignment is disrupted, sometimes as a result of an abnormality in jaw growth, but usually because of uneven strain placed on the joints. Tooth grinding and clenching, jaw injuries, missing or damaged teeth, crooked teeth, and degenerative conditions like arthritis can all contribute to uneven or excessive strain on these joints.

Over time, that uneven pressure pulls the jaw joints out of alignment. Even a minor shift in your jaw joints can quickly lead to inflammation inside the joint, along with popping, clicking, pain, and sticking sensations. Some people with TMJ develop chronic headaches, earaches, or neck pain as a result of continual jaw strain. Without treatment, these symptoms tend to get worse over time.

Treating TMJ

Fortunately, TMJ can be treated, but before recommending any type of treatment, Dr. Tomase examines your teeth and jaw joints to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms. In addition to an in-depth visual exam, he routinely uses diagnostic imaging to obtain detailed images of the joints, as well as your jaw position and anatomy.

TMJ treatment focuses on relieving the uneven strain on the jaw joints. While surgery was once the go-to treatment for TMJ, today most people benefit from a combination of more conservative medical treatment and lifestyle changes.

If TMJ is related to missing or damaged teeth or very crooked teeth, having those issues fixed can definitely help. Dr. Tomase frequently prescribes custom night guards designed to address chronic nighttime grinding that strains your jaws and contributes to tooth wear and tear.

In addition, he may recommend avoiding chewing gum and limiting chewy foods, while focusing on softer foods to give your jaws a chance to heal and help relieve inflammation. Gentle jaw-stretching exercises and stress relief techniques may also help.

Don’t ignore popping jaws

While TMJ is a common cause of jaw popping, other problems, like traumatic injury and even cancer, can cause popping and clicking, too. Having an evaluation is the first step toward resolving your symptoms and protecting your health.

To learn more about TMJ treatments that can relieve symptoms and protect your jaw joints, call 419-670-6537 or book an appointment online today at Tomase Dental Care.