Why Does My Jaw Pop All the Time?

Oct 01, 2023
Why Does My Jaw Pop All the Time?
Popping noises when you chew or open and close your mouth signal a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problem. The best way to prevent complications is to seek early treatment. Read on to learn more.

Does your jaw pop or click when chewing? Or does it suddenly stop moving when opening or closing your mouth?

No matter if these symptoms occur occasionally or frequently, they’re signs of a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

If you struggle with jaw symptoms, it’s time to schedule a checkup with Roy Hudgens, DMD, at Hudgens Dental

Why turn to Hudgens Dental? Because most TMJ disorders are caused by dental problems, we have years of experience providing customized treatments that ease your symptoms and maintain healthy jaw movement.

Let’s explore why you hear TMJ noises and how they’re treated.

Why your jaw pops, clicks, or crackles

The joint connecting your jaw to your skull ( TMJ) allows your jaw to move up and down, forward and backward, and side to side.

The TMJ doesn’t simply bend like other hinge joints when opening and closing your mouth. Instead, the jawbone slides out of the joint socket when your mouth opens and returns to the socket when it closes.

A cartilage disc on top of the jawbone supports smooth movement. At the same time, several groups of muscles work together to move the bone. 

Problems in any of these structures lead to TMJ disorders. However, popping, clicking, and crackling noises usually signal a problem with the disc.

If the cartilage breaks down, bone rubs against bone, causing crackling noises. Popping occurs when the cartilage separates from the jawbone.

The cartilage disc can slide away from the jawbone, moving forward along the skull bone. The disc could stay in a forward position or slide back into place when closing your mouth.

Either way, the jawbone and disc stop moving together. Instead, the bone moves over the disc as it goes in and out of the joint. Popping or clicking noises occur as the bone slips over the cartilage.

Jaw noises are easy to hear because the TMJ is in front of your ear. The ear and TMJ also connect with the temporal bone of your skull, which can amplify the sounds.

Top causes of jaw problems

In addition to popping and crackling, TMJ disorders cause pain, including headaches, jaw pain and discomfort, and facial pain. Earaches and ringing in the ears are also common symptoms. As the cartilage and bones in the joint deteriorate, the jaw can lock, making movement difficult.

The top causes of TMJ disorders include:

  • Teeth clenching and grinding
  • Jaw misalignment
  • Dental trauma
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Jawbone infections
  • Weak, damaged, cramped, or inflamed muscles

All the conditions in this list can lead to disc problems. The first six conditions may affect the muscles supporting TMJ movement.

Treating TMJ disorders

The primary TMJ treatment is oral appliance therapy. Wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard or splint at night holds your jaw in a position to relieve TMJ stress and prevents problems caused by teeth grinding and clenching.

If a mouthguard doesn’t help or you have severe joint degeneration, you may need a steroid injection or a minimally invasive procedure to clean debris from the joint.

You will need treatment for a misaligned jaw or bad bite if it’s the source of your TMJ symptoms. If we diagnose problems with jaw or tooth alignment, we refer you to a specialist for braces.

If you experience annoying jaw noises or pain, don’t wait to call Hudgens Dental or request an appointment online.