Clicking and Popping Sounds May Signify TMJ

If you experience clicking or popping sounds coming from your jaw during normal use, you may need to see your dentist immediately. Though patients often grow used to living with these symptoms, they may signify a more serious condition such as TMJ, regardless of whether they are currently causing pain. The seriousness of this condition and the range of treatment options were discussed in a recent article by Dental Health Magazine.

TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, may cause a host of difficulties for sufferers of the condition. Initial symptoms may include headaches, localized pain in the neck and head, and the aforementioned clicking or popping sounds. In addition, it may become quite difficult for patients to move their jaws without triggering intense pain. Untreated, these symptoms will worsen, leading to inflammation and the degeneration of the jaw joint. In time, these conditions may develop into osteoarthritis, a serious and painful condition.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

While some people may be predisposed to developing TMJ disorder, one unique thing about this condition is that it may be caused by behavior. Even those with perfectly healthy jaw anatomy may develop TMJ through a persistent course of damaging action. Those at risk often are not aware of what characterizes damaging behavior and how they can avoid it.

Some of the common causes of TMJ disorder include:

  • Grinding the teeth – Patients are often unaware that they are grinding their teeth, as it generally occurs at night and may only be noticed by your sleeping partner. Often stressful situations or other forms of anxiety may contribute to the onset of nocturnal teeth grinding.
  • Clenching the jaw – Similarly to grinding the teeth, jaw clenching may also occur while sleeping, and often accompanies increases in stress. Unlike teeth grinding, patients may often find themselves unintentionally clenching their jaw during the day.
  • Excess chewing – Simply chewing too frequently may contribute to TMJ. This includes both habitual overchewing of foods and consistent gum-chewing.
  • Mouth over-opening – Opening your mouth too widely while eating, yawning or sneezing may contribute to TMJ if done constantly over time.

Treatment of TMJ Disorder

Managing the symptoms of your TMJ condition requires a thorough understanding of what actions are aggravating your disorder. Your body helps you in this respect by flagging many damaging behaviors through jaw pain, popping and clicking. Some treatment options that may help provide relief for patients include:

  • Consult with a cosmetic dentist – The first and most crucial step in treating TMJ is to see a professional dental expert. Your dentist can help determine what may be at the root of your problem, and will help form a proper course of action. As this disorder exists in a wide range of severities, a professional opinion will help ensure that your treatment is appropriate for the situation. Mouth guards and other devices may also be recommended by your dentist.
  • Stop chewing gum – While your condition may not have been caused by gum-chewing, this seemingly innocent habit can have a negative effect on your TMJ symptoms. Switching to mints, breath strips or breath spray can give you the same fresh breath without aggravating your jaw.
  • Avoid hard/chewy food – In your regular diet, switch out food that requires aggressive chewing for softer, more easily consumed fare. The cumulative effect of constantly chewing foods like taffy or steak may worsen TMJ.

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