Is jaw popping normal? 5 major points everyone should know.

Is jaw popping normal?

When you speak of the jaw popping, most of the time professionals examine just the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). However, when it comes to pain, popping, noise and dysfunction in the jaw, if we look at just the TMJ, we are missing a big piece of the puzzle in helping others!

Therefore, we now use the term, Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD).

TMD is defined as a group of disorders involving the masticatory muscles, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and the associated structures.

With that being said, the question on jaw clicking is directly linked to the TMJ and more specifically, an intra-articular disorder. Intra-articular disorders of the TMJ have been defined as an abnormal positional relationship between the disc and the condyle, articular eminence, and/or articular fossa.

To further break down an intra-articular condition, the most common diagnosis —up to half of patients with jaw popping— is disc displacement with reduction. Most patients recognize two clicks, one when the mouth opens and one when the mouth closes. This condition also typically does not have limitations in how much your jaw can open but usually is not a smooth movement.

With this being said, let’s dive more into “is jaw popping normal?”.

I like to start off and say normal is different for many patients and being “not normal” does not always mean a bad thing!

When I refer to normal in clinical practice for my patients with jaw popping, I always give the statistic that 1/3 of patients who have jaw clicking (i.e. disc displacement with reduction) are asymptomatic! I have seen research that says even up to 40% of patients with popping and clicking do not have trouble.

This mean you may have noise in your jaw but not painful! This is great news!

But, what if it is painful? Read more below!

What should I do if my jaw pops?

This continues to be a debate in the dental and rehabilitation fields. Many may say it could increase the probability of joint arthritis in the TMJ, but this is debatable too.

Therefore, these are 5 major points everyone should know about this topic:

  1. If you are just having popping or clicking without any pain or limitations in how you chew, talk or use your jaw, I wouldn’t worry about it.

  2. If you or your dentist notice inflammation or swelling in the jaw that pops, your body is creating a symptom and this means the area is getting “picked” at. There is a reason for these symptom and your body is trying to tell you something. You should get a professional evaluation to prevent this from getting worse.

  3. If you notice that your jaw locks up at times or even have limitations with chewing, talking, or singing, your body is giving you a signal that something is not right. You should get a professional evaluation to prevent this from getting worse.

  4. If you notice that you are getting more frequent or longer lasting headaches, it could be due to irritability from your jaw muscles. These could be your masseter or temporalis muscles that can refer to your head causing headaches. You should get a professional evaluation to prevent this from getting worse.

  5. You should re-examine your parafunctional habits (such as chewing gum, grinding teeth, eating your food at your computer, etc), stress and anxiety. All of these factors can influence your jaw tone, underlying daytime or nighttime bruxism and tension in your neck. If you are unsure what might be “picking” at this area from a stress/anxiety standpoint, you should reach out to a professional to help you figure this out.

In conclusion, jaw popping usually requires no treatment if it is asymptomatic = no pain. It is benign condition until your body gives you cues otherwise! Then, I would find a TMJ specialist, either a dentist or physio, that can help guide you!

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