What is the TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the jaw joint in which the lower jaw fits into the skull. There is a disc and a small piece of cartilage, which separates the bones. Our TMJ is a complicated and small joint, which allows us to move our lower jaw in many directions as we speak and eat. When the disc becomes displaced we can hear joint noises such as a clicking or popping sound. Noises in the joint means there is dysfunction and damage inside the joint.
Why is my TMJ cartilage out of place?
There are a number of reasons that can lead to damage inside the TMJ.
- Unstable bite, parafunction like clenching and grinding,
- Trauma to the face and mouth
- Systemic health issues like arthritis
If you’re starting to get noises in your joint – and the most common one is going to be a click or a pop. That means that piece of cartilage is out of place. When we first hear clicks, it’s most likely what we refer to as a partial displacement of that piece of cartilage. And you don’t necessarily get any pain or discomfort, but it produces a noise. These problems tend to be progressive in nature and may lead to a complete disc displacement and eventual changes to the boney anatomy inside the TMJ.
What happens if I ignore it?
The concern is that if the cause is not addressed, the problem will progress from a partial cartilage displacement to a complete displacement,. Complete disc displacement is a much more complicated issue. This can result in more discomfort in the long term.
To prevent this progression from happening, it’s important to get a thorough examination and try to figure out the cause. Conservative, reversible treatment may begin with a precision dental appliance to help stabilize the joints, relax the muscles and provide an ideal bite.
My jaw will click sometimes, but other times it won’t. Does that mean it’s less severe?
Any noises in the joint mean there is some damage inside the TMJ. Generally when we open and close, we go through a series of different movements, and that piece of cartilage is like a buffer between those two bones. For some people, that click will be every time you open or close. For others, it may be more sporadic. Regardless, if you’re starting to hear clicks or pops in your jaw joint, that’s an indication that there’s a problem inside the joint that should be investigated.
Is any dentist qualified to examine my jaw clicking or popping?
Not all dentists are created equal. Dentists that have studied with The Dawson Academy have spent extensive time learning how the jaw, joint, muscles, and teeth work in harmony, what happens when they are not in harmony, and how to address any related problem.
Information obtained from The Dawson Academy.