What Causes Popping or Clicking Jaw Sounds
Your jaw joint is made up of two bones bound together by ligaments and a cushioning disc of cartilage that keeps the bones from touching and helps them move more smoothly. For many people with TMJ, this disc has become displaced forward when the jaw joint is closed. As the jaw joint opens, it creates enough room for the disc to slip back in place, which is usually accompanied by a sound that people describe as either popping or clicking. You may also notice a sudden, irregular motion of the jaw that goes along with the sound.
How Popping or Clicking Becomes More Serious
Although you may not notice any problems with your jaw beside the sound, initially, if left untreated jaw sounds in the joint can turn into major problems. Although the cushioning disc initially slides into place, it may stop sliding into place. This means you won’t be able to fully open your jaw.
In addition, when the cushioning disc is sitting forward, your bones are putting pressure on ligaments and soft tissue not designed to cushion the bones. Over time, this will damage those tissues, causing inflammation and pain.
Because the ligaments and other tissues are inadequate for cushioning the bones in your jaw joint, the bones will begin to put pressure on each other. This will grind them away and may be accompanied by another type of joint sound, a creaking or grating sound, called crepitus. Combined with the body’s inflammatory response, the grinding of your bones can result in so much damage to the joint that you will have no option but surgery and joint replacement, which has its own risks.
Stop Joint Noises before They Require Surgery
The good news is that with early TMJ treatment, we can stop joint noises and head-off damage to the bones. Often, your disc becomes displaced because your teeth aren’t fitting together properly, which puts your jaw in a position that encourages the disc to slip out of place. We can use a bite splint or other treatments to put your jaw in a healthy position that encourages your disc to stay in place.