Does it feel like you need to pop your jaw or it clicks when you open and close your mouth repeatedly? The clicking or jaw pain could be a symptom of TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder. The first step is to visit your dentist.
This complex joint is between the temporal bone and jawbone (mandible). The joint also has muscles and nerves surrounding it. Place your fingers at the top of your jaw in front of your years and open your mouth. You’ll feel the movement of the joints. They allow you to move your jaw up and down, and side to side. You use them to talk, chew and yawn.
If you notice any of the following, you may need a dental exam:
- Clenching or grinding
- Ear congestion
- Jaw joint pain
- Jaw join noise or clicking
- Loose teeth
- Ringing in ears
- Sensitive teeth
- Trouble chewing
The good news is that for most people, a clicking or sore jaw does not indicate a serious problem. The symptoms tend to be temporary and sometimes appear in cycles. The pain may go away with little or no treatment. However, it’s strongly recommended you have your dentist take a look.
What causes TMJ disorder or a clicking jaw?
- Slipped articular disc
- Jaw or bite misalignment
- Injury or trauma to jawbone
- Muscle strain
Your healthcare provider will do an evaluation. This may include examining your face, jaw, and neck. You’ll be asked questions about your health and injuries. Your doctor may order X-rays, MRI, bone scan, or an arthrogram, which is an X-ray with a contrast dye to provide a clear picture.
The treatment for TMJ depends on the cause:
- Appliance: You may need an appliance to correct your bite and misaligned teeth to ease the stress on your jaw. Teeth grinding or clenching the teeth can also aggravate the TMJ. An appliance may be able to help relieve symptoms.
- At-home treatments: Your doctor may give you at-home treatments to ease your symptoms while allowing your jaw to heal.
- NSAIDs: These over-the-counter medicines help reduce swelling and pain.
- Steroids: The doctor injects steroid into the join to help decrease pain and swelling.
- Muscle relaxers: A prescription for muscle relaxers can help reduce muscle spasms and pain.
- Surgery: If the teeth, joint and jawbone cannot be repaired with an appliance, it may need surgical intervention.
If your jaw clicks or feels sore, get a dentist exam. If it’s non-dental related, you’ll get a referral to a specialist based on your symptoms.