Because they are such complex structures, our jaw joints tend to “pop” or click from time to time, especially if we move them in an awkward manner. When clicking and popping is constant, however, it could indicate a chronic issue that needs to be corrected. Here’s what you need to know if you are experience clicking or popping in the jaw.
There are generally two types of jaw popping. The first occurs when the jaw opens wide, and the lower jaw bone passes over a small ridge in the upper jaw bone. This is common, and is generally not considered a major issue.
The second kind of jaw popping is when the cartilage-like disc within the joint is displaced. This phenomenon is more concerning, because over time, it can wear down the jaw joint cause damage and pain. When this happens, the resulting condition is called temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.
The temporomandibular joint is one of the most complex joints in the body, responsible for moving the jaw backward, forwards, and side-to-side. TMD or TMJ Disorder is the blanket term that refers to any issue that keeps this complex system of discs, bones, ligaments and muscles from functioning properly. It is commonly caused by trauma to the jaw, osteoarthritis, or genetic jaw misalignment.
Common symptoms of TMD include:
If your jaw popping isn’t causing you any of the symptoms listed above, it is probably not a cause for concern. However, you may still want to see a dentist to determine whether your temporomandibular joint is being affected. Diagnosing and correcting the problem before it actually starts causing you pain is rare in dentistry, but can save your future self a lot of time, discomfort, and money!
Your dentist will be able to determine whether you are suffering from TMD by conducting an examination, reviewing your dental and medical history, and taking appropriate X-rays. If you do have TMD, there are a variety of treatment options available, based on the severity of your issue. These include changes in behavior, pain medications, muscle relaxers, steroid injections, oral splints, and physical therapy.
If the treatments above are ineffective at eliminating your symptoms, minor arthroscopic surgery is usually enough to solve the issue. In some cases, patients may require extensive jaw replacement surgery, especially if the jaw joint has begun to degenerate due to trauma, osteoarthritis, or a genetic disorder. However, this is very rare. If you are experiencing jaw pain now, and correct the problem promptly instead of allowing it to worsen over the years, it should never come to this.
Viewmont Family Dentistry is based in Hickory, NC. To schedule an appointment with our Hickory NC dentist office, click here.