Why Is My Jaw Popping?
There’s no doubt that the popping feeling you sometimes get in your jaw is startling and even a bit scary. It’s actually a common symptom of TMJ pain. TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is a condition in which the hinge connecting the upper and lower jaw isn’t working as it should. This hinge is a very complex system of muscles, joints, discs and bones that creates multi-directional mobility for the jaw, which allows you to eat, drink and talk effectively. Any issues with this complex system is called “TMJ”. It can feel like a pop or like your jaw is stuck.
What causes it?
Because there are so many components involved, it’s very hard to determine the exact location of the issue in your jaw, but we do know of several behaviors that can make it more likely. Teeth clenching and grinding teeth at night often lead to TMJ pain, as well as general chronic stress and stressful habits like nail biting. Pregnant women are often subject to TMJ pain because pregnancy hormones cause the ligaments throughout the body to become more lax, which often affect these joints in the jaw.
What are the symptoms?
The common symptoms for TMJ include:
- Headaches, earaches, or aches behind the eyes
- A popping sound when the jaw is moved
- Pain when yawning or chewing, or general jaw tenderness
- A stuck or locked jaw – either briefly or for longer periods of time
- A sudden, noticeable change in how the upper and lower teeth fit together
How can it be treated?
Many patients worsen their TMJ by the above-mentioned clenching and night grinding, which can be treated with a night guard. For quick relief, you can apply moist heat and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. If you believe your TMJ is caused by stress, practicing good relaxation techniques may also help.