Telltale Signs of Jaw Clicking and What They Mean

Every time you open your mouth to yawn or even just to chew, do you feel and hear something move and lock on each side of your face? This may have happened to you a couple of times in the past, but you chose to ignore it and it went away. However, not all cases of jaw clicking are meant to be ignored. These may be indicative of an underlying disorder, one that needs to be checked by a doctor right away.

Your jaw functions as a hinge, allowing you to open and close your mouth without difficulty. This is of vital importance to your daily living as most of your activities (e.g. speaking, eating, etc.) require movement of your mouth. Since your jaw muscles are sometimes excessively utilized, they usually fall prey to wear and tear. Jaw clicking is usually due to the muscles of your jaw (aka muscles of mastication) providing unequal and limited force to your jaw.

Sometimes, jaw clicking manifests with other symptoms including headaches, pain in the area and even the neck, as well as difficulty and pain in opening and closing the mouth. Some dentists and doctors claim that the reason this can be so annoying for some is that it occurs close to the ear. Although this can be indicative of a more serious disorder, it doesn’t always necessitate a trip to the doctor. Oftentimes, this happens when you excessively chew on something or when you stretch your jaw too much.

However, a more serious disorder associated with jaw clicking is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder. Your TMJ connects your mandible or jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. Usually, a TMJ Disorder involves pain in the muscles of mastication, and sometimes an inflamed TMJ. With these symptoms, you can expect impaired functioning of your jaw and related muscles.

Because bone doesn’t have the ability to transmit pain, you can expect the pain to come from surrounding soft tissue, musculature and even Cranial Nerve V (Trigeminal Nerve). This nerve is responsible for supplying motor function to your jaw.

Listed below are a few known causes of TMJ Disorder. Bear in mind that these are only a few external factors that may causes TMJ Disorder, and that the causes aren’t limited to the ones mentioned.

Teeth Clenching or Grinding

Some people have the habit of clenching their teeth during times of frustration or stress. Sometimes, teeth clenching happens when you’re asleep so you don’t even know it’s there. Doing this puts an intense amount of pressure on your jaw muscles as well as other soft tissue.

Excessive Chewing

Similar to teeth grinding, this causes too much strain on the muscles of mastication and may also cause inflammation of the TMJ.

Exaggeration in Opening the Mouth

This doesn’t refer to excessive opening of the mouth, but rather opening the mouth too wide as when one eats large sandwiches, yawns or sneezes.

Degeneration of the Joint

This usually occurs with conditions accompanying aging, including osteoarthritis.

Since prevention is always better than cure, here are a few things you should do to avoid becoming a victim of this condition:

Kick the Habit of Chewing Gum

Although chewing gum is a great way to keep yourself awake, excessive chewing does you more damage. You continuously strain your jaw muscles, leading to a better chance of developing jaw clicking.

Try to Avoid Hard-to-Chew Food

If you’re a fan of steak and ribs, this might come as bad news to you. Just like chewing gum, chewing on hard-to-chew food constantly strains your jaw muscles. The same goes for Big Macs and double decker burgers. Although our jaw works as a hinge, there’s only so much it can take.

Check for Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding, also known as Bruxism, can make your condition worse. Bruxism usually happens when we sleep at night so we’re usually unaware of its occurrence, unless someone tells us. So on your next visit to the dentist, ask him/her to look for signs of Bruxism. Although this is said to be triggered by stress, its causes remain highly debatable.

TMJ Exercises

Although this seems like a quick fix, it does help relieve the pain. Massage your jaw as well as the area surrounding it, including your neck and shoulders. It’s also important to relax your face throughout the day.

Because it’s better to be safe than sorry, set an appointment with your dentist once you feel pain in the area of your jaw, and when you have trouble chewing and opening your mouth.

About the Author
If you enjoyed reading this article, we offer a number of different resources on our Sore Jaw Relief website. You can find additional information such as this Cavity Pain and You article.


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