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Jaw clicking (or popping) is a prevalent phenomenon experienced by millions of people worldwide. While it is generally harmless, it's essential to address any pain or facial disturbances it may cause by seeking professional dental advice. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of jaw clicking, including its causes, associated signs and symptoms, and available treatment options that can bring you relief
Why Does My Jaw Click?
The clicking of your jaw can be attributed to a condition known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD), or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD). This disorder arises from an underlying malfunction involving your jaw muscles, nerves, or the temporomandibular joints themselves, which are the joints connecting your jawbone to the temporal bones on either side of your skull.
TMD can stem from various factors and habits. Excessive gum chewing, habitual finger biting, teeth grinding (bruxism), jaw clenching, frequent jaw thrusting, and even the habit of biting your lips and cheeks can contribute to the development of this condition. These actions gradually wear down the temporomandibular joints, resulting in a clicking or popping sound when you move your jaw in certain directions.
While the exact prevalence of TMD in Australia remains unclear, it is worth noting that this condition often runs in families, and women tend to be more susceptible to its effects than men.
When Should I Seek Treatment for My Jaw Clicking?
For many people jaw clicking is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. However, there are certain symptoms that warrant a discussion with a dentist. If you experience any of the following issues, it is advisable to seek professional advice:
- Painful clicking
- Jaw tenderness
- Facial swelling
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Jaw lock
- Eating difficulties
- Headaches, toothaches, neck aches, or earaches
Jaw clicking can also sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical condition that might need some attention. Some potential causes include
Jaw injury: Trauma such as a break or dislocation can result in jaw clicking.
Arthritis: Joint inflammation can contribute to the development of TMD and jaw clicking.
Jawbone infection: Untreated dental cavities can lead to infections in the jawbone, which can cause clicking and have serious health implications
Myofascial pain syndrome: Muscle tension, fatigue, or spasms in the masticatory muscles responsible for chewing can lead to jaw clicking.
Teeth misalignment: Issues like overbite, underbite, or crossbite can contribute to jaw clicking and may require treatment.
Sleep apnea: There is some evidence suggesting a potential connection between TMD and sleep apnea. If you experience loud snoring and chronic fatigue, seeking treatment is advisable.
Tumor (ameloblastoma): While extremely rare, the presence of a tumor near the wisdom teeth or molars can affect jaw movement and cause clicking.
Treatment Options for Jaw Clicking Relief
Teeth Alignment Treatment: In cases where jaw clicking is caused by dental misalignment, teeth straightening treatments such as clear aligners may be necessary to realign the teeth and correct the bite.
Self-Care Measures: Applying moist heat or cold packs, avoiding hard and chewy foods, practicing stress-reduction techniques, and maintaining good oral hygiene can provide temporary relief.
Dental Splints or Mouthguards: Custom-fitted dental splints or mouthguards can help alleviate jaw clicking caused by teeth grinding or misalignment.
Physical Therapy: TMJ exercises and jaw stretches prescribed by a physical therapist can strengthen the jaw muscles and improve joint function.
Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, or corticosteroid injections may be recommended to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Jaw clicking can be an uncomfortable experience, but understanding its causes, recognizing associated symptoms, and exploring available treatment options can help you find relief. By seeking professional dental advice and following appropriate treatment recommendations, you can address jaw clicking effectively, improving your overall oral health and quality of life.
Can teeth misalignment contribute to jaw clicking?
Yes, teeth misalignment, such as overbite, underbite, or crossbite, can contribute to jaw clicking. When the teeth do not align properly, it can affect the movement of the jaw and the functioning of the temporomandibular joints, leading to clicking or popping sounds.
Can jaw clicking be hereditary?
Yes, TMD often runs in families, indicating a potential genetic predisposition to the condition. If you have a family history of jaw clicking or TMD, it is important to be aware of the symptoms and seek appropriate treatment if necessary.