- When you bite down, do you experience pain?
- Are you restricted with how much you can open your mouth?
- When you open your mouth wide – does your TMJ’s pop or click?
- Have friends or family members commented on how loud your clicking jaw or popping jaw is?
If you answered yes to even one of those questions, something isn’t right. A healthy and normal TMJ is quiet when it’s working it does not generate noise, limit mobility, or cause pain. During eating, chewing, singing, swallowing, talking, and even breathing – you should feel no discomfort or experience anything unusual. The muscles that control your jaw should work in harmony, allowing you to open and close your mouth both smoothly and silently. If you notice a constant clicking, popping, and snapping when you engage in everyday activities, something isn’t right. Clicking, popping and pain are indicators that your jaw joint may be unstable. It is a like a muscle – tooth war inside your head When your teeth bite in one spot but your muscles want your jaw to sit in another spot for balance and comfort, you develop tension within the jaw system. It is like a WAR, between the stable bite and the happiness of the soft structures like the jaw muscles and jaw joints.
In this WAR, one of 3 things can happen
- If your muscles are winning the war, they will tell the brain to grind your teeth to a spot that is less strained. The result can be rapid tooth wear.
- If your teeth win the war, they tell the muscles to work harder and keep clenching to provide support. You will have muscle tension and strain and may have more headaches and other TMJ problems. The good thing is your teeth will not be worn down.
- In War, everyone loses: you will experience a combination of both tooth wear and jaw pain at the same time.
Depending on the cause of the jaw popping or the presence of other medical conditions, professional interventions may be necessary for some cases.
- Mouthpieces: A splint or nightguard may be used to prevent or manage clenching or grinding of the teeth. These devices can also treat malocclusion of the teeth.
- Dental work: Overbites, underbites, and other dental issues may be addressed through dental work to reduce jaw popping.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): Using electrical currents, TENS relaxes the muscles of the jaw and face to relieve pain.