Popping in your jaw, whether painful or not, is an annoying condition that affects many people. While it could be a one-time occurrence from opening your mouth too wide, it’s often related to a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder that causes problems in the hinge joint of your jaw, leading to pain and other symptoms.
At The Snoring & Sleep Apnea Center in Seattle, Washington, we offer state-of-the-art treatments when you’re dealing with jaw problems. Dr. Katharine Christian has years of experience treating TMJ and other disorders that cause facial pain.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a problem that affects the joint that attaches your lower jaw to your skull. This hinge joint is responsible for allowing your mouth to open and close when speaking, eating, and yawning. You have one of these joints on either side of your head, close to where your temples are.
Jaw popping is something that happens for various reasons. Certain behaviors can cause wear on the joint, some of which include:
Repetition of these behaviors puts excess stress on the temporomandibular joints, often resulting in pain and a popping noise or sensation when you open your mouth. If your jaw popping occurs without any discomfort, it may just be a temporary problem caused by overextending your jaw.
Sometimes, jaw popping is caused by other issues that are serious and require medical treatment. Arthritis happens as your joint deteriorates over time, while a dislocated jaw is a sudden injury that causes intense pain and damage to the joint.
Your temporomandibular joint is connected to many soft tissues in your face, neck, and head. For this reason, TMJ disorders often lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
When you have a TMJ disorder, you’re also at risk for jaw-locking. This makes it extremely difficult to use the joint — it can happen when your mouth is open or shut, keeping your jaw in that position.
TMJ disorders can also change your bite, or the way your teeth fit together. This often causes problems with chewing and other symptoms such as jaw pain.
Dr. Christian performs an exam and takes X-rays to look at your joints. The type of treatment that’s right for you depends on your symptoms and the damage to the joints themselves. If Dr. Christian determines that your jaw popping is due to TMJ dysfunction, numerous treatments can help reduce your pain and improve joint function.
An oral appliance can prevent you from grinding your teeth or relieve pressure in your jaw from clenching. Dr. Christian also prescribes mouth guards or splints to ease tension in your jaw muscle and keep your jaw properly aligned.
Anti-inflammatory medications reduce the pain related to TMJ. Steroids and muscle relaxers are also sometimes used to treat inflammation and ease the muscle tension related to a TMJ problem.
If you’re suffering from pain related to TMJ, cold laser therapy is a great option. It’s a noninvasive procedure that uses energy emitted from a laser to stimulate cell regeneration. This helps heal the tissues within your joints without invasive surgery. There’s no downtime with this procedure, and it’s painless.
If you’re an avid gum chewer, you may need to quit your habit for a while to rest your jaw. You should also limit activities like singing or yelling, which make the TMJ dysfunction worse. Applying heat to your jaw or neck helps to ease muscle-related tension.
If you’re tired of dealing with jaw popping, call our office at 206-905-6998 or request an appointment using our online booking tool. Dr. Christian also provides telehealth consultations and appointments.