TMJ Clicking or Popping – Why Does My Jaw Make A Clicking Noise?

TMJ clicking or popping is one of the most common benign symptoms of TMD and happens when the ligament of the disc of the jaw joint has been stretched or torn and is allowing the disc to move farther than it did in the past. This condition does not result in pain in very many people and it is usually left untreated by doctors.  Having a TMJ click doesn’t mean you need to have any treatment.  Here is a youtube video showing a schematic of what is happening.

 

Causes Of Clicking

Jaw joints are ball and socket joints and it makes a popping noise when the joint comes out of its position and goes back in when you chew or speak. An abnormally shaped disc can cause TMJ clicking. Shortened jaw muscles can also spasm and increase the pressure inside the jaw joint and results in the pop or click. The TMJ clicking may be because of a stretched ligament or some trauma that may have caused a tear to the ligament.

 

When treat it?
Other than the conservative, reversible treatment I recommend here the answer is “Rarely!”  If you are having facial/muscle pain, drastic change in your bite, and/or headaches at least have your general dentist take a look, but be cautious of being over-treated for this condition.

 

Diagnosis Of Clicking

Simply hearing a popping or clicking is your diagnosis.  Most TMJ exams will include an evaluation of symptoms which include TMJ clicking, facial pain, numbness, ear issues, muscle spasms, and possibly occlusal or bite issues. An Orafacial Pain expert would want more diagnostic tests if the conservative, reversible treatment did not work.  This is very rare and is usually the result of some sort of injury or trauma.  The following are tests that might be preformed:

  • Computed Tomography(CT) Scan which gives the details of the bone structure but doesn’t give any details of the soft tissue.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) provides details of soft tissue along with discs and muscles.
  • Tomography is used by most dentists and is a type of x-ray that shows cross- sections of the jaw area.

 

Treatment For Clicking

Without any other signs or symptoms there may be no treatment recommended. If other symptoms are present the treatment recommendations include exercises of the masticatory muscles, pharmacological intervention (anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers), psychological interventions (ie stress management and relaxation techniques), and splint therapy (nightguard).

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