As you age, you might believe that creaking and popping sounds in your joints, such as knees, hips, and back, are normal and should be accepted. But as a leading Kansas City TMJ dentist, I can tell you this is fiction. Creaking and popping is not healthy for any joint, especially your jaw.

The Jaw: Your Most Dynamic (and Complicated) Joint

The jaw joints are the most unique and also the most complicated joints in your body. These joints, known as the temporomandibular joints, connect your lower jaw to your skull and are what give you the ability to move the jaw up and down, side to side, and back and forth. When the jaw closes, how far it closes is determined by where the back teeth meet. No other joint in the body has this variable end point.

When these joints are damaged or out of alignment, the ability to move the jaw in these ways can become difficult, painful and noisy. Think of your jaw joints like the hinges of a door. When the door is new and well aligned with the door frame, the hinges work quietly without issue and the door functions correctly. But if the door is not well aligned, requiring you to force the door closed, over time and with use, the hinges may begin to show wear and tear and get squeaky.

When you hear noises in your jaw such as popping , it is an early sign that the hinge – your joint – is damaged. Grinding or creaking sounds typically mean that the damage is getting more advanced, with bone-on-bone movement caused by loss of cushioning in the joint.

So, Should You Worry?

Experiencing jaw popping or creaking, medically known as crepitus, is something to be taken seriously. The popping noise means that the disc of the joint is out of place when teeth are closed and pops into place with movement as you open your mouth. As you close your mouth, the disc gets displaced again, often more quietly. This popping can happen when you talk or chew or even when you open your mouth or yawn. Crepitus, which also includes a grating, sandpaper noise, indicates further damage to the joint where there is bone-on-bone contact.

Many times popping and crepitus can be painless. Because it’s “just noise” and not painful, some dentists would say it’s nothing to worry about and may even say ‘it is normal.” But it’s not normal. No good dentist would say that if a cavity doesn’t hurt yet it is “normal,” don’t worry about it and call them when it starts hurting. By then it could turn in to a root canal procedure, when it could have been repaired early on with a simple filling.

In fact, in almost every case, when a noisy jaw develops into a painful jaw, patients report that their jaw clicked, popped and creaked for months or even years before the pain began.

If you’re experiencing pain with noises like popping and cracking, it’s because the ligament that anchors the disc is stretching to compensate for the dysfunction in the joint caused by the disc being out of alignment. It can also result in the muscles that surround the joint being tense due to the position of the jaw.

If you’re experiencing both popping and pain, it’s time to call Dr. Raman, Neuromuscular dentist in Kansas City. Much better results can be achieved with early intervention.


If you’re noticing pain and popping with the regular use of your jaw, the first thing you should do is call Dr. Raman for an appointment. Other steps to help keep you comfortable include:

  • Switching to a soft-food diet. Tough or chewy foods can aggravate jaw conditions. This includes chewing gum.
  • Stop clenching. In many cases, jaw dysfunction can be caused by clenching or grinding of the teeth, which can put undue stress on the jaw joints. Keep your lips together and teeth apart while resting your tongue in the palate.
  • Reduce stress. If you do find yourself clenching throughout the day (and it is probably happening at night, too), you may be subconsciously responding to stress. Try to reduce your stress levels through things like exercise, yoga, meditation and nasal breathing.

Finding TMJ Treatment in Kansas City

If your jaw is creaking, popping, clicking or if you have pain with normal jaw functions such as chewing, yawning or talking, it’s time to call Kansas City TMJ dentist Dr. Raman. Call us now at (816) 436-4422 to schedule a TMD evaluation and consultation.