What is it?
Have you ever noticed your jaw joints make noises? The most commonly reported jaw joint noises include clicking, crunching or clunking. These noises can occur once-in a while, or be present all the time, when we use our jaw. Jaw joint noises may represent an underlying TMJ dysfunction such as a disc displacement or TMJ arthritis, especially when accompanied with jaw pain .
Common Signs and Symptoms
Most patients may experience these noises without any pain or limitation in their jaw function. However, some patients may notice the following:
- Jaw clicking, in one or both joints when opening or closing the jaw
- Jaw crunching noises when opening or closing the jaw
- Jaw clunking sensation when opening or closing the jaw
- Pain when opening or closing the jaw, especially in front of the ears
- Shifting of the jaw to one side when opening
- Dull ache within the jaw muscles
While there are many reasons for jaw joint noises to occur, the most common reason for a jaw joint click is due to a disc displacement within the jaw joint, that “clicks” back into position on opening. The disc, known as the articular disc , sits between the mandibular condyle and the glenoid fossa, and forms a “cap” over the condyle within the jaw joint. Disc displacements can occur due to trauma (e.g. whiplash injury) or from prolonged clenching or grinding of the teeth. As the disc acts as a “shock absorber” for your jaw joint, a displaced disc can often result in TMJ pain .
“Crunching” noises within the jaw joint can represent underlying bony degeneration, often the result of TMJ arthritis.
Our specialists at the Perth Oral Medicine and Dental Sleep Centre are experienced in diagnosing and treating the underlying cause to your jaw joint noise. At your consultation, your specialist will conduct a comprehensive consultation, including an in-depth examination of your TMJ and TMJ function, to better understand the cause of your jaw joint noise. You may also require additional testing such as an MRI or a CT scan of your jaw joints to get more information about any underlying TMJ dysfunction.
Treatment for jaw joint noises is dependent on your underlying TMJ disorder. Most of the time, jaw clicking without any pain or problems in jaw function, do not require any treatment.
However, if pain and limited function is present, treatment specific to your needs will be advised by our experts. The goal of treatment is to reduce your TMJ pain , improve your TMJ function and prevent further degeneration of your jaw joints.
Jaw joint noises can exist in people without any associated pain or difficulty in jaw function. In such instances, treatment may not be required. However, patients with jaw joint noises and associated TMJ dysfunction may require long-term management to prevent the development of TMJ arthritis.