When you open your mouth or chew, do you hear a popping noise in your ear? For some people, the sound might more closely resemble a grinding noise or a click. If this sounds familiar it may be caused by temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD. A healthy jaw joint moves smoothly without causing any popping, grinding, or clicking sounds. Why do some people’s jaws make this popping noise? Popping sounds emanating from the jaw are typically the result of development dysfunction.

What Causes the Sound?

The temporomandibular joint is the most complicated joint in the entire body. Jaws can act as hinges, while also swiveling and partially orbiting out of the socket. Jaws can be dysfunctional because they are underdeveloped, or as a result of trauma. If the discal ligament that anchors the disc on top of the mandibular condyle is damaged or severely stretched out, the disc can slip out in front and often to the inside in relation to the condyle and snap back into place when the mouth is opened or protruded far enough. This snapping back into place is what causes the sound TMD sufferers are familiar with. In fact, most people don’t even consider that “suffering” since it does not usually hurt.

What Damages the Joint?

A dysfunctional jaw joint is the primary cause of jaw popping and clicking. What causes this dysfunction?

  • Poor bite relation – Poor bite relation forces us to artificially adjust the way our teeth line up. Over time, this practice wears down the discal ligament which is responsible for the popping.
  • Age – Age is not a disease. So age does not cause damage. But just as a car that is out of alignment leads to uneven wear of the tires the longer you drive on it, age ‘reveals’ the problem of poor alignment. If you already struggle with jaw pain or symptoms of TMD, you can manage the symptoms with soft foods, moist heat, and cool packs, and avoiding behaviors that strain your jaw. However, you can be helped at any age, by correcting the jaw alignment through nonsurgical treatment, even in your eighth decade!
  • Trauma – Accidents and other traumas can also damage the jaw joint. If a patient has been in an automobile accident or has a sports injury for example that affected their head they may experience TMD symptoms.

Continued clicking and popping of the TMJ can lead to irreversible damage. If the disc that usually lines the joint doesn’t fall back into place, soft retro-discal tissue will be the only thing protecting the bones from wearing on each other. This progression can cause inflammation and lead to arthritis.

Everyday Activities Affected

We use our jaw joint about 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. These actions include:

Have You Noticed Unnatural Sounds Coming From Your Jaw?

Hearing popping, clicking, or grating noises from the jaw joints is a sign of jaw dysfunction. If you notice clicking, snapping, or popping noises from your jaw, the earlier it is corrected leads to better results. Call to schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman at (816) 436-4422.