Jaw popping when chewing is a painful sensation caused by issues with the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). The temporomandibular joints connect the jaw and skull (with one joint on each side). This joint creates a hinge-like movement when you open and close your mouth. The hinge-like movement of the TMJ allows you to move your jaw up and down, side to side, open your mouth, chew, talk, and yawn. When there is an issue with the joint, popping can occur. Problems with your jaw are known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD). However, many times you will hear people incorrectly refer to these issues as TMJ.
What are the Symptoms?
If you experience jaw popping when chewing or have a TMD, common symptoms include the following:
- Tenderness in your face, jaw, or neck
- Issues when you try and open your mouth wide
- When your jaw gets stuck or “locked” (open or closed)
- Sounds like clicking, popping, or grinding when you chew or open your mouth
- Facial swelling, especially around the jaw area
- Issues with chewing
What Causes Jaw Popping When Chewing?
While the cause is still uncertain, medical professionals have hypothesized that the issue occurs when there are problems with the muscles in your jaw or the joint itself. However, potential causes include:
- Injury to your jaw, the actual joint, or the muscles in your head or neck
- Grinding your teeth
- Movement of the disc between the ball and socket of the joint
- Stress or tension that leads to clenching your teeth or jaw muscles
- Chewing gum too often
- Biting your lip, cheek, or fingernails
- Thrusting your jaw out
These activities can cause wear and tear on the joints which can erode the area. It is important to note that jaw popping is generally not a major concern so long as there is no accompanying jaw pain. However, if you feel pain you should consult your medical provider as the jaw popping or TMD may be a symptom of a more serious medical condition.
If you experience jaw popping without any associated jaw pain, there is usually no major cause for concern. However, if you are at all worried about any of the symptoms you are experiencing you should consult your medical provider promptly. Below you will find a few home remedies to try if you experience jaw popping:
- Heat and Ice Packs: Alternating hot and cold temperatures to your jaw area can alleviate some of the symptoms. Place an ice pack on your jaw for 10-15 minutes followed by a warm compress for 5-10 minutes. Repeat this process multiple times each day.
- Avoid Certain Foods: Certain foods that are hard, crunchy, or chewy should be avoided. Try softer foods that don’t require a lot of chewing (jaw activity) to process. Also, focus on taking smaller bites and chewing slowly to ensure you aren’t overexerting your jaw.
- Relax: Focus on relaxing your jaw and practicing stress management. When you are sitting, be sure to keep your mouth slightly open as to let your jaw rest without tension. Avoid any tension that could cause you to clench your jaw. Be sure your stress levels are low as well. Stress can lead to tension in your jaw which can lead to greater issues with jaw popping.
- OTC Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help with the swelling in your jaw. Keeping inflammation down can help reduce the impact of the jaw popping and pain or swelling that may be associated with it.
Dental Care in Upland
Depending on the cause of the jaw popping when chewing or other possible medical conditions, medical treatment may be necessary. Often times the medical treatment needed for more serious conditions is from a dental professional. Some treatments include mouthpieces, dental work, or surgery.
If you are concerned about your symptoms and want to discuss them with a medical professional, My Dentist Upland provides free consultations for your dental needs. My Dentist Upland sets itself apart from other dental clinics as we provide stress-free and high-quality dental care. We provide prompt and individualized attention to each patient as we are focused on providing our expert services in a convenient way. Dr. Nehal Zevari has over fifteen years of experience and has devoted his life to dentistry. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, School of Dentistry, one of the nation’s top universities. Dr. Zevari believes that everyone deserves a chance to be proud and happy with their smile.