Why is Your Jaw Popping?
It is really hard to come up with a better description for this dental condition than “popping”. Even in its early stage, when the disorder causes barely any pain, it can really drive you crazy by the nasty popping and clicking sounds which come out from your mouth whenever you eat or even speak, and draw the (not always empathetic) attention of other people who happen to be near you in a quiet room.
However, contrary to popular belief, jaw popping is not just a psychological problem, as it causes a number of complications which the majority of us are not really aware of. So, the answer to the question whether jaw popping requires treatment seems quite obvious to me.
Where Does the Jaw Popping Sound Come from?
The actual, nasty jaw popping sound comes from your temporomandibular joint space, when it fails to function properly, or it has spasms and tightness in its tendons or muscles.
Most commonly, the tightened muscles pull the patient’s jaw out of its anatomically right position, causing the jaw-popping disorder.
Depending on the severity of the problem, the dental disease might affect only one TMJ or both of them.
As the disorder keeps progressing, the annoying popping and clicking sounds stop being merely a discomforting problem and the jaw popping is likely to lead to a number of complications if left without treatment.
Why Is It Not Worth Postponing Treatment of Jaw Popping?
The temporomandibular joint is responsible for many oral cavity and facial functions and these are not just the obvious ability to open and close your mouth, or performing chewing movements; apart from those, the proper functioning of the TMJ assists you in making your facial expressions. So, these are the three functions which the jaw popping disorder slowly but surely affects when you leave it without adequate treatment.
On top of that, whenever the jaw popping disorder affects one TMJ, this leads to uneven stress of the jaw bone discs. If the popping is observed in both temporomandibular joints, this is risks unnaturally high tension and stress on the disc.
In its turn, the continuously increased stress on the jaw bones disk makes it lose its smooth gliding, inherent to a TMJ which is not affected by jaw popping. As the disk loses its smooth gliding, it is really likely to get literally stuck at some point when you open or close your mouth.
If the sticking is temporary, it makes you feel and hear the popping or clicking; however, as the disorder keeps progressing, it can become permanent and result in a jaw-lock problem.
What Are the Causes of Jaw Popping?
The jaw popping disorder is likely to result not only from such obvious sources as traumas of the teeth, jaw, or face and natural wear of the discs and bones: the problem could be linked to certain orthodontic disorders, including severe teeth misalignments and, certainly, bad bite disorders, which hinder the normal functioning of the temporomandibular joint.
In addition, improper bony growth in the oral cavity can manifest itself in jaw popping which occurs only when you open your mouth.
The most common bad dental habits triggering the jaw popping disorder include teeth grinding or clenching and excessive use of chewing gum.
Among the underlying general health conditions causing jaw popping, it is worth noting neuralgia disorders, rheumatoid arthritis whenever it affects the jaw bones, and obviously head or neck cancers.
What Are the Symptoms of Jaw Popping?
The most obvious sign of this dental condition is certainly the popping or clicking sound, coming out from your mouth when you open or close it, or even chew on your food, talk or simply yawn.
Apart from that, the jaw-popping disorder is usually accompanied with gradually increasing and spreading pain. At first, the patient experiences pain and difficulty when he opens his mouth (also note that patients with jaw-popping usually cannot open their mouths wide).
Later on, he starts experiencing his jaw pain even when motionless. Gradually, the jaw pain spreads onto the face. Tooth and gum pains, as well as headaches, are also commonly observed in the patients with jaw popping. As tension in the jaw tendons and muscles keeps growing, the jaw-lock problem becomes a more and more frequent issue.
The ever-changing nature of the pain is the main reason why the condition calls for professional diagnosis, as non-professionals often fail to tell the jaw popping disorder from even such a different dental condition as tooth decay.
Even if you do not have pain, but still experience popping and clicking sounds coming from your mouth, do not hesitate to contact your dental care provider, as sometimes, the jaw popping condition turns to be almost symptomless.
What Are the Treatment Options for Jaw Popping?
It is essential to go through professional diagnosis to follow an adequate jaw-popping treatment plan. Depending on the severity of the disorder and its source, your dental care provider will develop the best treatment tactics for each case.
The basic treatment actions for jaw popping presuppose self-care at home practices. They usually include relaxation exercises for the jaw tendons and muscles and application of cold compresses.
Sometimes, pain killers are prescribed. Dietary changes commonly include an emphasis on soft foods.
The conservative treatment of jaw popping also calls for management of the underlying sources if any identified.
This usually involves treatment, or at least monitoring, of the triggering diseases. The closest attention is usually drawn to management of any orthodontic disorders. If the source of your jaw popping is the teeth-grinding habit, special night guards are widely prescribed. It is also worth stopping chewing gum if you experience any TMJ disorders.
Advanced cases of jaw-popping disorder are usually managed by special injections in the jaw muscles or even major surgical treatment.
Finally, remember to immediately turn to a dental care provider as soon as you start experiencing jaw popping. Never attempt self-treatment, as it is likely to lead to numerous highly unpleasant complications. The choice of jaw-popping treatment tactics is always up to a professional.