Jaw Popping

Jaw popping refers to the clicking sound in the temperomandibular joint (explained below) when it is overextended. The overextension of the joint may occur during yawning or eating. Sometimes this clicking sound can be accompanied by pain sensations.

Temperomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) or temperomandibular disorder (TMD) is due to the dysfunction of the temperomandibular joint

The temperomandibular joint is a joint between the jaw and the skull, one on each side. It is a joint between the lower jaw (mandible) and the temporal bone of the skull. Hence it is named as temperomandibular joint.

This joint enables to eat, speak and yawn. It is a hinge type joint allowing a range of movements of the jaw. This complex joint helps the mandible to move side to side and also enables protrusion. The contraction of the facial muscles and ligaments attached to the joint cause these movements.

The mandible glides along the slope of the temporal bone of the skull. This enables the jaw to perform a range of movements.

What Causes Jaw Popping ?

Jaw popping mainly occurs due to the tightness of the facial muscles attached to the joint. The other cause for the jaw popping can be dislocation, displacement or trauma to the joint.

Excessive chewing of gums, grinding of teeth and nail-biting can aggravate the condition. Increased usage of the joint can worsen the condition.

There are various medical conditions leading to the development of TMDs. Some of them are provided below :-

1) Arthritis

Arthritis is inflammation of joints. It may affect one or more joints. The most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osseoarthritis.

Arthritis can cause damage to the cartilage and surrounding tissue of temperomandibular joint. This results in difficulty in jaw movements and leading to jaw popping. Stiffness, joint pain, swelling and limited jaw movements are some symptoms of arthritis.

2) Malocclusion

Different types of malocclusion such as crossbite, underbite, deep bite and open bite can cause pain in the joint. An orthodontist can treat such malocclusions.

3) Injury to the jaw

Road accidents, sports injuries, physical assault and other such accidents can harm the jaw. Such injuries can cause dislocation and damage to the joint. Such damage affects jaw movements and causes pain.

In case, there is bleeding, swelling, numbness or bruising, medical attention shall be required immediately.

4) Sleep apnea

It is a sleep disorder in which there is an interruption in the sleep pattern. Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea are two forms of sleep apnea which cause jaw popping.

Headaches, depression, daytime sleeping and snoring are symptoms of sleep apnea. Signs of sleep apnea include difficulty in swallowing, change in speech and generalized weakness.

5) Myofascial pain syndrome

It is a disorder of the muscles. This syndrome has trigger points or sensitive points which are triggered when stimulated. This pain with restricted mouth opening can cause jaw popping.

6) Infections

Various infections can also be a cause for jaw popping. Specially infection of the salivary glands is seen to interfere with jaw movements. Some signs and symptoms of salivary gland infection include dry mouth, foul smell in the mouth, swelling in the face and facial pain.

7) Tumors

Tumors involving the face and neck can cause hindrance in joint movements. Earache, loose teeth, weight loss and soreness in the mouth are some symptoms of oral tumors which need to be attended as early as possible by an oncologist.

How To Fix Jaw Popping ?

There are various remedies for jaw popping. The dentist decides the best treatment depending on the cause and symptoms

Home Remedies

1) Cold fermentation

Application of ice packs two to three times a day on the joint can help relieve pain.

2) Medications

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help relieve the pain and can reduce the swelling.

3) Relaxing the jaw

We should avoid excessive loading of the jaw or extreme movements

4) Prevention

Prevent yourselves from eating hard and sticky food. Food should be consumed in small bites to avoid excessive mouth opening.

5) Stress Management

Stress has an impact on the temperomandibular joint. Stress-induced grinding of teeth can be avoided through its correct management.

6) Physiotherapy

Exercises and massage help distress the joint, thereby improving the overall condition.

Medical Treatments

1) Orthodontic correction

We can address the problem of jaw popping through orthodontic correction.

2) Injecting medications

Pain killers injected at the site of pain help relieve it.

3) Laser Therapy

Laser therapies and radiotherapies improve jaw mobility and ease the pain.

4) Night guards

Night guards help relieve the joint by avoiding tooth contact.  Thereby we can prevent teeth grinding and clenching.

5) Surgery

This is the last option available to treat jaw pain. Operations should be an option only if there are no other solutions possible. The type of surgery will depend on the cause.


Jaw dysfunction can limit many simple yet important functions of the mouth. It has been affecting many people around the globe. In any case, if you are experiencing pain or dysfunction in your jaw, it is best to seek medical care as soon as possible.

Additional References

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