Have you every heard some unusual nosies coming from your jaw like clicking, popping or clunking sounds? Perhaps it’s happened when you yawned or eaten a nice chewy steak. Sometimes you might even feel like you have a entire rhythm section playing some loud beats in your jaw when you are chewing or even talking.
The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) aka jaw joint is made up of 2 bones, the temporal bone and mandibular bone (hence the name). Between these 2 bones there is a disc that is not dissimilar to the discs between your vertebrae in your spine and cartilage in your knee. In a perfect world the disc glides together with the mandible bone always staying snug and centred on top of the condyle (round protuberance on top of the bone). When this doesn’t happen the disc moves in and out within the joint and this is the noise that you hear.
There are many reasons why this happens and the clicking can come with or without pain, here are just a few reasons why clicking may occur:
- Excessive forces in the joint that come from oral habits such as clenching, grinding, biting cheeks, chattering teeth, biting nails, chewing gum, biting pens the list could really go on and on. What tends to happen is normal asymmetries can get exaggerated in the orofacial muscle system that then has a domino effect on the joint, resulting in some asymmetries in the joint positioning.
- From my experience having increased joint laxity can often be a risk factor for increased clicking and further more some general TMJ dysfunction (however the jury is out according the literature and further studies are required). You might want to think of it as having more room for movement within the joint as the ligaments surrounding the joint have more give. See references for further reading.
- Sometimes it occurs if you have had your mouth open for an extended period of time such as at the dentist or after surgery and having had an artificial airway in your mouth. It seems the muscles overwork and the disc is displaced out of the joint.
Because we use our mouths regularly to talk, eat and make facial expressions it can be quite debilitating if you have pain associated with clicking or any jaw pain for that matter. But rest assured there is help!
Ericka has a special interest in treating head, neck and jaw issues and has extended experience treating clicking jaws. Book here for a session
- Westling, L. 1992. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction and systemic joint laxity. Jan 81:1-79.
- Buckingham, R et al. 1991.Temporomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome: A close association with systemic joint laxity (the hypermobile joint syndrome). Vol 72, Issue 5, Pages 514–519.
- Dijkstra, P et al. 2002. The Association between Generalized Joint Hypermobility and Temporomandibular Joint Disorders: A Systematic Review. https://doi.org/10.1177/0810158