Why Is My Jaw Popping? Causes and Treatments

Jaw popping can occur by something so simple as eating or yawning when the mouth is open wider than usual, which is due to the overextension of the jaw. The popping you experience is a clicking sound, often accompanied by some pain.

However, overextension of the jaw isn’t the only thing that can cause one to experience jaw popping.

Often it can occur from issues with the functioning of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). These joints connect the jawbone to the skull.

The reality is, without the temporomandibular joint, you would not be able to yawn, chew, or talk; therefore, it is crucial.

TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder) and TMD (temporomandibular disorder) are both names for the dysfunction of the joint.

What Causes Your Jaw to Pop?

The following behaviors can lead one to experience jaw popping:

  • clenching of the jaw
  • chewing gum too frequently
  • grinding of the teeth
  • biting of the lip or cheek
  • biting of the fingernails

The rule of thumb is that if you do not experience any pain with your jaw popping, then don’t be overly alarmed.

However, there are medical conditions that can cause jaw popping, such as:

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

MPS – otherwise known as myofascial pain syndrome – is an issue where the musculoskeletal system experiences profound pain, which resides in one area.

However, common symptoms of MPS are jaw popping and something known as “trigger points” or “sensitive spots,” which cause pain whenever applied pressure is on that particular area.

Some more common experiences people with MPS can get are:

  • a reduced range of motion in the affected area
  • increased pain when the muscle is strained
  • interference in sleep and mood
  • knots in the muscles that are extremely painful
  • no improvement of pain after a week

Tumor

Tumors can impact the jaw in that they can cause jaw popping and eventually even lead to oral cancer.

Some of the areas tumors may develop in are:

  • bottom of the mouth
  • lips
  • hard and soft palate
  • gums
  • cheek
  • tongue

There are several symptoms of oral cancer listed below. If you are experiencing any of them, please consult with a doctor as soon as possible.

  • an unusual mass or lump in the mouth
  • lump or mass in the neck
  • lip sore, or mouth sore
  • an ongoing earache that will not subside
  • loose teeth
  • unexplained fast weight loss

Malocclusion of the Teeth

In basic terms, malocclusion is a misalignment of the teeth that fall under several terms: crowded teeth, crossbite, overbite, and underbite.

A symptom of malocclusion is jaw popping; however, it is treatable with braces in most cases.

Other symptoms can include:

  • breathing through the mouth
  • accidentally biting the cheek or tongue often
  • speech problems
  • tenderness when biting or chewing

Arthritis

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause damage to the cartilage of the temporomandibular joint, possibly impacting the jaw socket, thus restricting movement.

Rheumatoid arthritis may cause tiredness, loss of appetite, and anemia, whereas osteoarthritis may cause stiffness and joint pain in other areas of the body, including a lowered range of motion.

If you feel you may have arthritis, please consult with a medical professional as you may be required to start a long-term treatment plan.

Infection

Jaw popping and TMJ are common side effects of an infection in the salivary gland, which may reside in the sublingual glands underneath your tongue, the parotid glands inside the cheeks, and the submandibular glands located underneath the jawbone.

Jaw popping frequently occurs in many people when they cannot fully open their mouth, and they can experience facial pain, pus in the mouth, swollen face or neck, a poor taste in the mouth, and a dry mouth.

Sleep Apnea

You may be aware of sleep apnea.

OSA (Obstructive sleep apnea) and CSA (central sleep apnea) can cause jaw popping, especially as OSA interrupts one’s sleep as one may involuntarily stop breathing due to the narrowness of the throat.

The person wakes up finding they are catching their breath as they experience a limited airflow which restricts the amount of air going into their lungs.

OSA symptoms include:

  • swelling of the legs
  • depression
  • snoring
  • headaches

On the other hand, CSA is when one stops breathing periodically during sleep as the brain isn’t signaling the muscles as accurately as it should, which can cause symptoms like overall weakness, difficulty in swallowing, and a change in voice and speech patterns.

Sleep apnea, however, is treatable with the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.

Broken or Dislocated Jaw

Unhinging the jaw joint causes dislocation, which is possible from an injury.

The causes include:

  • workplace accidents
  • a fall at home
  • sports injuries
  • vehicle accident
  • physical assault to the face

The symptoms of a broken or dislocated jaw tend to be numbness, jaw pain, swelling, bleeding, and bruising. However, if you feel you may have sustained one of these injuries, please get treated quickly.

How Do I Fix My TMJ Jaw Popping?

Although medical treatment is not always necessary, some options to stop jaw clicking are:

  • radio wave therapy
  • corrective dental treatments
  • ultrasounds
  • TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
  • trigger point injections

If the above treatments do not help, surgeries such as open-joint surgery (replacing or repairing the joint), arthrocentesis (removing fluid from the joint), and arthroscopy (repairing of the joint using small surgical instruments) are options.

However, home remedies are certainly worth a try to help relieve your TMJ, such as:

  • eating soft foods for a while
  • putting an ice pack to the jaw
  • wearing a night guard
  • The use of NSAID’s (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin, muscle relaxants, Advil (ibuprofen), and possibly antidepressants
  • Executing specific TMJ exercises.

Summary

Jaw popping is usually a temporary condition that you can rectify by a home remedy or, at worst, medical treatment.

Should you experience persistent jaw popping or increased pain, please get medically reviewed by a doctor.

About the author

Chris Jones

I'm Chris. I have a vast interest in all things relating to health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition. I also love to improve my mindset and learn how to increase my productivity. If you'd like to say hello or ask me a question, please visit my contact page, and I'd be glad to hear from you. Alternatively, you can find me on Twitter (@liveliftlife).