If you’ve ever taken a bite of food only to hear - and feel - a strange clicking or popping sound when you chew, you may have wondered what was happening, and if you should be concerned. The good news is that, believe it or not, occasional clicking or popping during jaw movement is pretty common, and when experienced only occasionally is not usually cause for concern. But there are times when this sensation could be a red flag that something is wrong. Here’s why your jaw may be clicking, and how to tell if you should see your dentist.

Where is that sound coming from?

It can be a little jarring to "feel" a sound, but that’s kind of what happens when you experience the popping of your jaw when you speak or chew. The reason you can both hear and feel the sensation is your jaw is connected to your skull right near your ears. So, you not only feel the popping sensation, but you also hear the click it makes.

Why is my jaw clicking?

There can be several reasons the jaw clicks or pops. Usually, it's just because of a shift in the disc in the temporomandibular joint of the jaw. These are the joints that connect the jaw bone to your skull. Some people experience this sensation for a few days or weeks, and then it goes away. As long as you are not in any pain, this is typically harmless and not any cause for concern.

When should I be worried?

Occasionally, your jaw may begin clicking and popping because of an emerging problem, such as temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ disorder, or simply TMD. When a TMJ disorder is present, you will most likely experience pain when you open and close your jaw in addition to the clicking and popping. If this happens, you should contact Dr. Simpson as soon as possible to be evaluated for a TMD.

What is TMJ disorder?

TMJ disorder can cause pain and stiffness in the jaw, making it difficult to do everyday things like speak, chew and open your mouth. TMJ disorders are considered orthopedic in nature, and can happen when you are stressed, have a misaligned bite, grind your teeth or have a genetic predisposition.

What can be done to correct a TMD?

If you suspect you have a TMJ disorder or you have already been diagnosed with one, there are treatment options that can help you. With the help of neuromuscular dentistry, Dr. Simpson can help better align your jaw to eliminate the pain, stiffness and clicking associated with TMJ disorders.

If you would like to discuss any concerns you have with your jaw, or need to schedule an exam with Dr. Simpson, please call the office at (910) 550-3959.