Dealing with Painful, Popping Jaws

Popping and clicking noises when you move your mouth may indicate a serious dysfunction, even if your jaw doesn’t hurt (yet). The muscles that typically make the noise should move smoothly and quietly; if they don’t, your jaw may be in the grips of TMJ disorder. Your temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, connect your lower jaw to your skull, and help keep your mandible from scraping against the temporal bones as your mouth opens and closes. An injured or disproportionate bite can complicate your jaw’s movement, and the joints may pop and click as your jaw tries to compensate for the imbalance.

Understand TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorder describes a condition where the joints are damaged, inflamed, and/or misaligned, and the resulting discomfort can often become severe. The disk might swell, become misaligned, or develop a perforation (a small hole) that aggravates your jaw’s nerve. Besides the popping noises that indicate TMJ disorder, other symptoms can include;

  • Chronic headaches, including migraines
  • Pain and ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Clenching/grinding your teeth
  • Difficulty opening and closing your mouth; lockjaw
  • Pain in the face, neck, shoulders, and upper back
  • Tender, sore face and jaw muscles
  • Exhausted jaw muscles, especially when chewing your food
  • Occasional dizziness

Assess the Situation

Because of the diversity of its symptoms, TMJ disorder can sometimes prove difficult to diagnosis. If you experience chronic discomfort similar to those described above, but have been unable to discover its cause, then you can gauge the likelihood of TMJ disorder by assessing your bite’s alignment. Crooked teeth can force your jaw to work harder to bite and chew, contributing to TMJ disorder. You can test your jaw’s symmetry by standing in front of a mirror, then slowly opening your mouth wide and slowly closing it again. If your jaw moves or twitches to the side instead of moving directly up and down, then your jaw’s joints and muscles are trying to keep your mouth straight, and TMJ disorder is a likely possibility.

Schedule an Examination of your Popping Jaws

Even if you thoroughly understand the intricacies of TMJ disorder and are able to see that your jaw’s imbalanced, a proper diagnosis requires a detailed, professional oral examination. Using innovative imaging technology and an experienced eye, Dr. Fondriest can help determine if you’re suffering from the jaw dysfunction, and why. Once diagnosed, TMJ disorder is clinically treated by addressing the underlying condition. Orthodontic treatment straightens crooked teeth, and can restore your bite’s balance. Minor cases can often be treated with oral splints that keep your jaw in an ideal position, eliminating pressure on your jaw so the joints can heal.

Temporary Relief at Home

Until you can seek a professional diagnosis and treatment, Dr. Fondriest recommends trying these home remedies to relieve your aching, popping jaw;

  • Bring the Heat—Warmth is an excellent muscle relaxer. When your jaw and face muscles are tense and in pain, you can help them relax by applying a heating pad or hot water bottle to one or both sides of your jaw. Be sure it isn’t too hot, or you’ll risk burning the sensitive skin on your face.
  • Be Cool—It’s not contradictory; heat relaxes muscles, but cold can often offer quick pain relief. You can alternate hot and cold so that you can enjoy the best of both muscle relaxation and pain relief.
  • Treat Yourself to a Massage—The benefits of a massage are two-fold; the relaxation will alleviate excessive stress, a common contributor to TMJ disorder, and massaging your neck, back, and jaw muscles will help directly ease the tension related to the discomfort.

About Your Lake Forest Dentist:

Aside from providing expert family and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from all of the surrounding communities of Chicago. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.

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