Many people think jaw popping and clicking isn’t a big deal, especially if it isn’t accompanied by significant jaw pain, so they avoid getting help for it. They think that the condition will just go away on its own, and it does, or so they think.
It’s true that if you don’t get it treated, your jaw will eventually stop popping and clicking, but that doesn’t mean things have gotten better. It means things have gotten worse, and you’re about to experience even more serious jaw problems.
What Causes the Popping and Clicking
Your jaw pops because it is dislocated, a form of TMJ technically known as disk displacement with reduction. The cushioning disk that is supposed to sit between the skull and your jaw has been forced out of place when the jaw is closed. As you open your jaw, there’s more room in the joint, and the disk slips back into place — that’s what causes the pop (or click).
As you close your jaw, the disk slips out of place again, which doesn’t cause any sound and usually is completely unnoticed.
Why the Popping Stops, and What Comes Next
You may think that the popping has stopped because your jaw has healed, but in reality the popping stops when the disk can no longer get between the skull and the jaw. Instead, it stays trapped in the front of the jaw joint. In this position, it actually interferes with your ability to open your jaw.
You might not notice at first that your jaw opening is limited, but one day you will notice. You may wake up one morning completely unable to open your jaw. This happens to about 10% of people in this situation.
How to Respond to Lockjaw
We understand that it’s terrifying to suddenly be unable to open your jaw. How will you eat? How will you drink? Will you ever be able to talk again?
But, despite your fear, don’t try to force your jaw open. This will usually work, in the short term, but in the process it can cause permanent damage to your jaw, and that damage can be so severe that the only TMJ treatment option you have will be surgery.
It’s also important to note that not all doctors are skilled in opening lockjaw, and that their efforts can be as bad as home treatment. When seeking treatment for your lockjaw, make sure you work with a doctor or dentist who knows how to safely release a locked jaw joint.
If we work on it early enough, your popping and clicking can be truly remedied without surgery. To learn about successful, nonsurgical TMJ treatment in Columbia, SC, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.