Clicking jaw is a medical term that refers to clicking sound that may be produced when the jaw is opened. You shouldn’t worry about an occasional click of the jaw. This is entirely normal for a highly flexible jaw joint structure.
However, if your jaw lets off a clicking sound virtually every time you open your mouth, and it is accompanied by feelings of pain, then you have every reason to be worried. There could be a problem in the function of the temporomandibular joints, which attach your jawbone to the sides of your skull.
These problems are referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ Disorder), or temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Millions of people suffer from TMD. In fact, it is estimated that over 70 percent of the population may experience.
While symptoms of TMD my go away on their own, it’s important to see your dentist whenever you notice them. Let’s take a more in-depth look at TMJ disorder.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
A clicking jaw can be can result from trauma, dislocation, or a displaced disc. However, the exact cause of TMJ disorder is not usually evident. Grinding and clenching can lead to stiff and painful facial muscles.
Certain forms of arthritis, on the other hand, can lead to complications of the joint itself. Studies show that women tend to be more prone to TMD. This is attributed mainly to the fact that the collagen holding the disk in the socket is structurally different in women and female hormones may also affect the joint.
Besides the clicking sound, other symptoms that could indicate a problem with the temporomandibular joint include the following:
- Pain and discomfort
- Difficulty opening your mouth wide
- Tenderness in your face or jaw
- Swelling in the face
- Difficulty chewing
- Locking jaws in a closed or open position
- A headache
- Pain in the neck
- A toothache
These symptoms may also be associated with other medical conditions. Hence, it’s advisable to notify your dentist whenever you notice them. Your dentist can best determine if the symptoms are a result of TMD or TMJ through a comprehensive examination. Then he can recommend the appropriate treatment.
How Can TMJ Disorder be Treated?
There is no definitive cure for TMD or TMJ, but there is a variety of treatments you can follow, and they can minimize your symptoms significantly. Your dentist may advise you to implement at least one of the following remedies:
- Wearing a bite plate or splint – A bite plate or splint is a device that you wear in your mouth to help curb the detrimental effects of grinding and clenching. It’s custom-made to fit your mouth, and you only need to slip over your upper teeth. It will prevent the teeth from grinding against the lower ones.
- Try to ease muscle spasm and pain – You can do that by applying moist heat or using medications like muscle-relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, or any other over-the-counter pain-killers.
- Practice relaxation exercises – These exercises are effective in relieving the tension of jaw muscles. You may also consider undergoing counseling to help ease stress.
If your jaw joints are affected and none of these remedies seems to be effective, your dentist may suggest that you undergo jaw joint surgery.
If you have a clicking jaw, there’s a high chance you are suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). TMD causes several other symptoms such as stiff facial muscles, headache, painful neck, locked jaws, etc. For a proper diagnosis, it’s imperative that you see a dentist who is experienced in diagnosing and treating the jaw joint and its related components.