Why Does My Jaw Pop When I Chew?

It’s not unusual for people to pop their jaws while chewing, especially if they slept hard on one side the night before. However, if this is a recurring problem (along with symptoms such as your jaw locking or becoming stiff), you could have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. 

At CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, with multiple locations in Maryland, our team of board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists can help diagnose and relieve your TMJ pain

Causes of TMJ disorder

Your jaw has hinge joints that connect the mandible (jawbone) to your skull. Those are the temporomandibular joints. Many factors can cause TMJ disorders, the most common being jaw injuries, arthritis, or erosion of the tiny disc that cushions the joint. 

Another contributor to TMJ disorder is bruxism, or teeth grinding. You might clench your teeth while awake due to stress or grind them in your sleep. Bruxism pressures the jaw and strains the muscles that move it, leading to jaw popping, pain, and other symptoms like headache. 

Symptoms of TMJ disorder

The most notable symptom of TMJ disorder is clicking or popping when you open your mouth. That indicates the jawbone isn’t moving smoothly, increasing the risk of it locking or becoming stiff.

TMJ disorder can come and go, flaring up when you sleep, chew gum or taffy, or rest your chin in your hand. Common symptoms during a TMJ flare-up include: 

 A locked jaw can be painful, especially if you try to force it back into alignment. 

Finding the right treatment 

Treatment for TMJ disorders depends on the severity and cause. If stress contributes to your TMJ, consider setting alarms to remind yourself to relax and unclench your jaw. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can alleviate symptoms and habits that contribute to TMJ pain.

Orthodontic intervention can also address TMJ disorders, correcting misalignment and literally putting your jaw back on track. Even steroid or Botox® injections can help with pain and stiffness caused by muscle tension. 

Relaxing the tight muscles that control the jaw can reduce inflammation and promote healing. 

If your head and jaw hurt and you don’t know why, or you experience constant popping and clicking when you eat, the specialists at CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center can confirm the cause and find a solution that works for you. 

To learn more and schedule a consultation, call the location closest to you or request an appointment online today. Our Maryland offices are in Hyattsville, Gaithersburg, Lanham, Dundalk, Oxon Hill, Rosedale, and Olney, and we have two in Baltimore.

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