If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from TMJ disorder, then popping or clicking jaw joints may be a daily occurrence. For many people, the sensation can be uncomfortable, and perhaps a little disturbing. For others, it may be a barely-noticeable annoyance that doesn’t seem to warrant any serious concern.
Whether it is mild or severe, the truth is that you shouldn’t ignore your popping jaws, which could indicate TMJ disorder and a risk of declining dental health if not addressed promptly. Besides the clicking, you might also begin to experience chronic headaches, jaw and facial pain, trouble opening and closing your mouth, and more.
A Look at Temporomandibular Joints (TMJs)
TMJs, or temporomandibular joints, are located on either side of your jaw, in close proximity to your ears. They are the joints that your lower jaw, or mandible, pivots upon, and they rely on balance to operate properly.
Your two TMJs work in tandem with each other and your jaw muscles to open, close, and move your jaw about. If any of your bite’s balance is disturbed, such as if teeth are crooked or missing, then TMJs can become damaged, inflamed, and/or forced out of alignment. The result may be the development of TMJ disorder and its many forms of discomfort.
TMJ Symptoms to Look Out For
Besides popping and clicking jaw joints, TMJ disorder also aggravates your trigeminal nerves, which control jaw movement and provide sensory information for most of your craniofacial structures. The three branches of each trigeminal nerve can transfer pain from you jaw area to other areas of your head, neck, and face, and common TMJ disorder symptoms can include;
- Unconscious teeth grinding as your jaw tries to find a comfortable position
- Tinnitus, or painful, persistent ringing in one or both ears
- Chronic headaches and migraines with no other discernible cause
- Sore, stiff muscles in your jaw, face, neck, and shoulders
- Trouble biting and chewing, including occasional locked jaw