Jaw clicking when chewing might sound alarming, but it is not always a cause for concern. This clicking or popping occurs due to the temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ. It connects our jaw to the temporal bones, allowing movements. Damage to your jaw joint can result in various symptoms known as temporomandibular disorders. Many factors are responsible for jaw popping and TMD.
What Causes Jaw Clicking When Chewing?
The hinges on either side of the jaw open and close as we chew our food. When something affects your jaw’s movement, it clicks as a response or warning. Clicking sound occurs because of physical deformities like disk erosion, damaged cartilage, and joint damage. You might hear your jaw clicking when chewing due to the following reasons:
1. Dislocated Jaw
Injury to the face can unhinge your jaw. Sports injury, accidents, falls to the face, physical assault, traffic collisions, etc., can dislocate your jaw. Consequently, you will hear your jaw making a clicking noise when chewing. If you also experience pain, have bruises or swelling, or any other issues, consult your doctor immediately.
2. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can cause TMD issues, according to some studies. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) are the two types of sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, a person stops breathing involuntarily while they sleep due to narrowness in the throat. Whereas in central sleep apnea, the brain does not signal the muscles accurately, making the patient stop breathing periodically through sleep. Before an episode of OSA, the throat starts relaxing, blocking the airway. The jaw tries to prevent this, which puts pressure on it — leading to TMJ problems. Therefore, sleep apnea can be why your jaw clicks when chewing.
3. Malocclusion or Misalignment of Teeth
Crossbite, overbite, underbite, open bite, and crowded teeth are results of misalignment of teeth. The malocclusion of teeth can cause discomfort while chewing; you might even hear a pop whenever you bite.
Infection from untreated cavities can lead to jawbone damage, which may sound like a pop when you chew. Not only this, but an infection of the salivary gland can affect your jaw too. You should seek immediate medical attention if you have an infection, as neglecting it leads to more problems. Dry mouth, bad taste, swollen face and neck, pus discharge in mouth, and pain are some signs of an infection. If your jaw is clicking when chewing and you suspect an infection, drop by your dentist immediately.
A tumor that leads to oral cancer can cause changes in your jaw. You will experience popping when the tumor starts affecting your jaw. A specific but rare type of tumor that can cause jaw clicking is ameloblastoma, which develops near wisdom teeth or molars and affects jaw movement. Therefore, if you experience jaw clicking when chewing, look out for loose teeth, problems in adjusting dentures, constant earache, and a persistent sore on the mouth or lip.
What Should I do?
Treatment for jaw clicking depends on the cause and severity of the damage. Your dentist might suggest home remedies or medical treatments, depending on the cause. At Smiles On Greatwood Dentistry, we offer treatments for TMJ and other oral health issues. Reach out to us at (281) 937-7530.