Have you experienced pain along your jaw? Do you hear popping sound as you speak, yawn, chew and open your mouth? If yes, you may be suffering from TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder is a condition affecting the joint in the jaw, which may be chronic or acute. The affectation of the jaw joint can lead to the misalignment of the jaw bones that contribute to the popping or clicking sound when the jaw is moved.

The Function of the TMJ

The temporomandibular joint is the one that connects the temporal bone to the mandible to form the jaw. Since it is a joint, it acts as a hinge, which allows the closing and opening of the mouth.  Aside from the closing and opening of the mouth, the TMJ also allows for the movement of the jaw sideways and from front to back (protrusion and retrusion).  These functions of the jaw joint allow us to talk, chew, yawn and bite normally. However, since the jaw joint is used frequently, any problem that may arise in the area may lead to debilitation in these functions.

The Development of TMJ Disorder

Various conditions lead to the development of disorders in the TMJ. Most common conditions include:

  • Jaw clenching and teeth grinding

Clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth frequently usually leads to increased workload in the jaw joint and they might as well lead to misalignments in the jaw as the jaw is frequently moved sideways or front to back.

  • Injury or trauma to the jaw joint

Direct trauma to the jaw can also lead to the dislocation of the TMJ. For instance, a fall can lead to the hitting of the jaw directly on the floor leading to serious jaw dislocations.

  • Degeneration of the jaw bone

Degenerative conditions such as arthritis can also affect the jaw joint leading to wear and tear and damage to the cartilage and ligaments that connect the temporal bone and mandible.

The Symptoms of TMJ Disorder and Jaw Popping

There are various symptoms of the condition including jaw pain, headache, ear pain, tinnitus or ringing of the ears, difficulty opening or closing the mouth, neck pain and lock jaw. Other symptoms involve the clicking or popping of the jaw that may or may not be accompanied with pain. Jaw popping is usually faint, but some people may just hear a loud popping when they speak or chew.

TMJ disorder is not always accompanied with jaw displacement or misalignment, but the presence of jaw popping is indicative of displacement in the disc in the jaw. Because of this displacement, the temporal bone and the mandible come in contact with each other producing the popping sound.

The disc is the cartilage that comes in between the ball and socket of the jaw joint. When this wears off or become displaced, there would be no protective layer to keep the two bones from touching each other. When bones come in contact, the frictional normally produces a sound and this is what happens in jaw popping in TMJ disorder.

To address TMJ disorders and jaw popping, various managements are employed; however, a correct diagnosis is usually needed to come up with the right treatment modalities.