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Popping & Clicking Jaw Sounds

A healthy temporomandibular joint functions like other healthy joints, quietly and smoothly going through its motions. For many people, though, having a clicking jaw or popping jaw is more the norm. It may jump forward suddenly or pull to one side. If you have these symptoms, you might be tempted to ignore them because they may not seem important. However, these symptoms of TMJ may be warning signs that your jaw may soon experience permanent degradation that can lower your quality of life, cause permanent pain, and require invasive, risky surgery to correct.

TMJ treatment for these symptoms at an early stage may be able to reduce or eliminate progressive damage to your jaw. For an evaluation of your jaw joint, please call (803) 781-9090 or email Smile Columbia Dentistry and schedule an appointment with Dr. Adam Hahn in Columbia, SC.

mature woman hugs her husbands neck while standing behind him

How Your Jaw Should Work

Your jaw bone has two rounded ends called condyles. Each condyle fits into a socket in your skull called a fossa. These bones don’t touch directly, they’re cushioned by a disc of cartilage that acts as both bearing and cushion to create smooth movement without causing bone wear.

The disc has no blood supply or nerves, but is nourished by slick synovial fluid that also greases the joint. The disc is fastened to the condyle of the jaw with ligaments. The disk is fastened to the back of the joint with a soft band of tissue with both blood supply and nerves. And the disc is attached to the small lateral pterygoid muscle in the front, which helps keep the disc in position as the joint moves.

How TMJ Affects the Function of Your Jaw

Sometimes, the disc can slip out from between the bones, often because of damage to the ligaments that hold the disc to the condyle. The most common cause of damage to these ligaments is injury or clenching of your teeth. Most often, the joint will slip forward.

If the disc has slipped, it will usually slide back into place when the jaw opens to a certain point. This may cause a popping or clicking noise. Other times, the disc may not slide back into place, causing closed lock of the joint—your jaw won’t open fully. When your jaw closes, the disc will silently slip out of place again. This means that rather than the disc, the joint is putting pressure on the soft tissue that attaches the disc to the skull. This tissue isn’t designed to take pressure like the disc is. You may feel pain from the nerves in the tissue, and the blood may bring the chemicals that cause an inflammatory response to the pressure. And if this soft tissue tears, your bones will be resting on one another, which can cause grinding, arthritis, and a total loss of joint function, but the most common complaint that is not pain related, is a clicking jaw or popping jaw.

Illustration showing an anterior disk displacement
The Jaw joint showing the normal anatomy of TMJ

TMJ Treatment for Clicking or Popping of the Jaw

If started soon, TMJ treatment can restore function to the temporomandibular joint and avoid long-term damage that may require more invasive treatments.

To have your temporomandibular joint evaluated and learn about treatments to eliminate clicking or popping noises in your joint, please call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC today.