Snap, Crackle, Pop: Sounds Your Jaw Should NOT Make

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (commonly known as TMD, TMJ or TMJD) is a broad term describing a number of symptoms that could be affecting the health of your temporomandibular joint. This joint acts like a hinge to connect your jaw to your temporal bones (just in front of each ear). Speaking, eating, yawning, open-mouthed laughing and basically any other function that requires opening your mouth is controlled by the TM joint, so you can imagine any difficulty with this particular part of the body could complicate your daily life.

I’m sure you have experienced at least one friend in your lifetime approaching you and asking if you can hear the strange noises coming from a part of their body. Some crack their knuckles, broken bones may leave residual damage in the form of snapping noises and more people than you may think they hear popping when opening and closing their mouth. These people making you listen as they mimic a gnawing motion may be suffering from TMD.

Why me?

There are many causes for TMD, some may be due to genetics, but many are based on habits you may have developed over time. Often enough, there is no explanation for how someone may have developed TMD. The most common causes of these disorders include the following:

  • Arthritis in the TM joint, typically arising based on family history with arthritis
  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your mouth, putting pressure on your jaw and causing the joint to become weak
  • Jaw injury or whiplash
  • Stress-induced jaw clenching or tightening of the facial muscles
  • Shifting of the soft cushion between the ball and socket of the TM joint

How do I know if I have TMD?

Symptoms of TMD may range, but the reason this particular joint disorder is so important to treat is because these symptoms may be chronic and may dramatically affect your quality of life.

If you experience any pain, discomfort or clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and/or close your mouth, you may be suffering from TMD. The following are other common symptoms of the disorder:

  • Pain or struggle when opening your mouth wide
  • Pain in your face, neck, shoulders, jaw, or cheeks when you open your mouth wide
  • Aching or tired feeling in your face
  • Difficulty or discomfort biting or chewing foods; this may not be painful all of the time, but you might feel as though your upper and lower teeth are not properly aligned
  • Swelling in your cheeks
  • Aching in your teeth, ears or head/neck
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Any combination of the above symptoms

Treatment Options

In most cases, TMD is treated without surgery. Your diagnosis and the severity of your disorder, including whether it is coupled with further jaw damage, will determine your treatment options. Therapy via bite guards, physical therapy or counseling are common in treating TMD and training your jaw against the habits it has formed.

If further medical attention is required, your doctor may suggest arthrocentesis (needle therapy to release fluids and remove inflammation), injections to relax the jaw muscles or surgery. Surgery for TMDmay call for joint replacement, and therefore is not recommended in every case. If you are suffering from pain or discomfort in your jaw, it may be TMD, but it may be a sign of jaw misalignment or a need for wisdom tooth removal. Dr. Elias at the Southern California Center for Surgical Arts can help you by diagnosing your condition and working with you to come up with a viable treatment plan. Plus, he is Los Angeles’ favorite oral & maxillofacial surgeon! Call our offices today if you have any questions, or to book your consultation: (818) 696-4425.

Dr. Husam Elias Hasam Elias

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