If you’ve ever stretched your jaw wide during a yawn, you might have heard it click as you shut your mouth. That was your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. While occasional popping and cracking is normal, TMJ disorders can affect your ability to open your mouth, chew, and speak. If you’ve noticed persistent popping and pain in your jaw, it might be time to consult a specialist.

At ChapmanSmiles Orthodontics in Happy Valley, Clackamas, Oregon, orthodontist Dr. Gary Chapman can evaluate your bite and help determine if you have TMJ dysfunction. Then he can put together a remedial plan to help reduce the issue.

TMJ disorders (TMD)

Your temporomandibular joints are located on either side of your head, connecting your lower jaw to your skull. When you open your mouth, your mandible swings along these hinges. TMJ refers to these joints, while TMD refers to the disorders that affect them.

TMJ disorders occur when your jaw doesn’t open and close properly. The exact cause of TMD isn’t known, but researchers have found links between developing a TMD and various factors. These include: 

  • Erosion and overuse of the joints
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth 
  • Structural jaw problems
  • Injuries to the jaw 
  • Arthritis 

Stress, lack of sleep, and orthodontic braces can also cause jaw popping, and have been associated with the development of TMJ disorders. Other factors can make TMD worse, including biting your nails, chewing too much gum, and biting the inside of your cheek. 

Common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction

The most common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction are persistent jaw popping, cracking, and clicking noises. It’s normal for your jaw to pop occasionally, especially when you yawn, stretch, or take a big bite of food. However, if you can hardly move your jaw without hearing noise, it might be a sign that something is wrong. 

Other symptoms of TMD include: 

  • Jaw stiffness
  • Limited movement 
  • Jaw locking 
  • Pain in the jaw, neck, or face
  • Change in teeth alignment (malocclusion) 

Treating TMD

TMJ disorders are often mild and harmless, and you can usually alleviate your symptoms at home. Regularly stretching and icing your jaw can prevent stiffness, while over-the-counter painkillers can treat pain. A change in diet can also help treat TMD; avoid chewy, tough foods like beef jerky and gum, and stick to softer foods. 

If your TMJ disorder is causing persistent pain and preventing you from talking or chewing normally, you might need help from a specialist. At ChapmanSmiles Orthodontics, Dr. Chapman treats TMJ disorders using orthodontic methods. These include: 

  • Braces and clear aligners, to correct misalignment
  • Custom mouthguards, to prevent teeth grinding

Every case of TMJ dysfunction is different, which is why Dr. Chapman performs a full evaluation before deciding on a treatment plan. 

Struggling with jaw popping and pain? Book a TMJ consultation by calling ChapmanSmiles Orthodontics at 503-336-3269, or request an appointment online

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