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Is a Noisy Jaw Normal?

Does your jaw snap, crackle and pop?

noisy jaw

You may have noticed some noise from your jaw when you’re eating or when you yawn. 

In most cases, a noisy jaw isn’t concerning. It can be relatively common and for most people only happens when you open your jaw very wide. In many cases, jaw noise isn’t painful, so if your jaw is creaking, snapping or grinding and is accompanied by pain and loss of use, it’s time to talk about TMD. 

What Is TMD? 

TMD, medically known as temporomandibular joint disorder, is the most common cause of pain in the face and head.

How Many People Are Affected by TMD? 

According to the American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP), approximately one out of every five Americans suffers from TMD. Of those who suffer, more than half are women. 

The AAOP also reports that roughly 2 million people visit their dentist each year because they believe they have TMD. This number includes both patients who seek treatment for other dental problems and patients who have been referred by dentists. 

Why Do I Have TMD? 

There are two main causes of TMD: trauma and degeneration. Trauma occurs when an injury to the jaw muscles or ligaments results in damage to the joints. Degeneration occurs when the tissues surrounding the joints become worn down or damaged. Both types of TMD can occur at any age. 

Traumatic conditions include sports injuries, accidents, work-related injuries and facial fractures. These traumas often result in muscle spasms, which can lead to chronic TMD. 

The condition can also develop after repeated stress on the jaw joints, which can be caused by actions such as chewing gum or clenching teeth. 

Degenerative conditions include arthritis, bruxism (tooth grinding/clenching) and aging. Arthritis is the most common condition associated with TMD. The wear and tear on your teeth and gums caused by chewing food can contribute to arthritis. Bruxism is another common cause of TMD. When you grind your teeth together while sleeping, this action can put stress on the joints between your upper and lower jaws. As we get older, our bodies begin to lose bone density, which can make us more susceptible to arthritis. 

What Are the Temporomandibular Joints? 

The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are two small bones at each side of the skull that allow for movement of the lower jawbone up and down. The TMJs also help hold the lower jawbone in place when chewing food, talking and yawning. 

Like other joints of the body, the TMJs can experience wear and tear — which can mean inflammation and injury and cause the symptoms of temporomandibular disorder. 

The symptoms of TMD include:

  • Joint pain in the jaw
  • Headaches
  • Ear pain or feeling as if your ear is full
  • Numbness or tingling in the face
  • Trouble chewing food
  • Sore spots on the tongue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Facial muscle spasms
  • A clicking, snapping or popping sound when opening or closing the mouth 

What Causes a Noisy Jaw? 

The noise in your jaw is called crepitus. It comes from small particles breaking off the bone surfaces wearing away in your jaw joint. These particles are created by grinding together the bones of your jaw. The grinding is usually caused by an abnormal positioning of the teeth or a misalignment of the jaw.

Jaw popping is another noisy problem you should talk to us about. There are two types of jaw popping. The first happens when you open your mouth wide and the lower jaw passes over a ridge in your upper jawbone, making a popping sound.

The second type of jaw popping is the troublesome type. It involves the displacement of the cartilage-like disc in your jaw that is in the middle of your jaw joint. This causes the disc to rub against the bone surface, causing a loud cracking sound.

Should I Be Concerned About My Noisy Jaw? 

If you’re experiencing a creaking, grinding, popping or snapping when your jaw is in use, coupled with the symptoms of TMD, call us for a consultation and exam. You don’t want to wait until you experience more problems, because this could lead to further issues including permanent damage to your jaw.

Untreated TMD can be very painful; many people say the pain can be so serious that it disrupts their daily life. If you have any questions regarding your TMD, please contact us today! We look forward to hearing from you.

If you’re experiencing a noisy jaw and jaw pain, call us now to schedule your consultation.