Ever wonder why a jaw joint "pops?" Some are loud enough, you can hear it across the room. The pop usually occurs while eating more so than talking. The purpose of the article is to explain why jaw joints pop and what should, if anything, be done about it.
Why does my joint pop?
Put a finger in front of both ear canals and open and close your jaw. Feel both joints move? Those are your temporomandibular joints (TMJ). If you feel a "pop," even a slight one, something is out of line. The louder the pop, the more out of line the joint is. Does the pop occur when just opening or does it occur on opening wide?
The TMJ is different than any joint in the body. There is a floating cushion called the disc that sits between the joint and the skull. The disc is a round circle and looks like a life saver and is designed to sit on the top of the joint. The purpose of the disc is to allow the joints to move and glide more efficiently. Unfortunately, the disc does not always stay where was designed to.
A popping joint is the noise of the jaw joint slipping off and on a misplaced disc. On opening, the joint pops on to the disc, on closing, the disc pops back off the disc. It's a complex situation but one that is easy to understand. There are very many variables of the pop depending on the location of the misplaced disc.
If you have a popping joint or joint problem, try this simple experiment.
Look in a mirror and slowly begin to open your jaw. The jaw should open in a straight line. If it deviates to right or left, there is a joint or muscle problem on that side. Why is the jaw deviating? If you were pushing a wheelchair down a smooth sidewalk and hit and obstruction on the right wheel, the wheelchair would turn to the right. It is the same in the joint; the displaced disc is in front of the joint not letting it slide down properly. This causes the jaw to move to the direction of the affected joint same as the wheelchair.
To treat or not treat
People in pain usually seek out the help of chiropractors or dentists. People not in pain just tend to ignore it as normal.
I have been treating popping joint for years and know from experience that only a highly trained dentist can help you. The reason the disc slips and the joint pops is because the upper and lower jaw can come together in harmony. This pushes the joint back too far and pushes it off the disc.
Treatment is a very sophisticated removable, plastic orthotic which fits over the lower teeth. The appliance allows the jaw to close the way it wants to. The goal of the orthotic is to wear it 24/7 until the body allows the joint area to resolve itself and then move to nighttime wear only.
A regular dental splint or night guard does not always to the job as you may or may not have experienced. To learn about your TMD, my book will help you understand why you and what you can do to get out of pain.