All you need to know about jaw popping

TMJ Los Angeles (Temporomandibular Joint & Muscle Disorders)
December 17, 2019
TMJ Los Angeles : How it Might Be Affecting You, And How to Find Relief
December 17, 2019

Jaw popping refers to a clicking sound from the jaw, which can be accompanied by sensations of pain.

Sometimes jaw popping can arise from overextending the jaw, such as by opening the mouth too wide when yawning or eating. At other times, it results from problems in the functioning of the temporomandibular joints or the joints that connect the jawbone to the sides of the skull.

Dysfunction of these joints is known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD) or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), although the condition may be incorrectly referred to as TMJ.

Fast facts on jaw popping:

  • Jaw popping without accompanying pain is not typically a cause for concern.
  • If certain health conditions underlie the popping, medical intervention may be needed.
  • The cause of jaw popping is not completely understood.
  • Jaw popping can often be treated at home, especially if there is no pain or other symptoms.
woman with pain in jawShare on Pinterest
A clicking of popping sound in the jaw may be a sign of temporomandibular disorder.

Jaw popping may be the only symptom experienced. However, TMD can often cause other symptoms as well, including:

  • pain and discomfort
  • tenderness in the face or jaw
  • difficulty opening the mouth wide
  • jaws that “lock” in an open or closed position
  • difficulty eating
  • facial swelling
  • toothache
  • headache
  • neck ache
  • earache

TMD is thought to arise from issues with the jaw muscles or the temporomandibular joints (TMJs).

According to the National Institute of Craniofacial Research, TMD affects over 10 million people, with women having it more often than men.

However, anyone of any age or gender can experience jaw popping, which may be linked to behaviors such as:

  • grinding the teeth
  • chewing gum regularly or excessively
  • nail-biting
  • clenching the jaw
  • biting the inside of the cheek or lip

Also, several medical conditions can lead to jaw popping, including:


Arthritis is a disease of the joints. Two of the most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, both of which can result in cartilage damage in the TMJ.

Destruction of the TMJ cartilage tissue can make jaw movements difficult and can cause a popping sound and clicking sensation in the joint.

Other symptoms of arthritis include:

  • joint pain
  • stiffness
  • inflammation or swelling
  • a reduced range of motion

Also, people with rheumatoid arthritis may experience fatigue and appetite loss.

Injury to the jaw

girl about to eat strip of chewing gumShare on Pinterest
Nail-biting, teeth grinding, and frequent chewing of gum may be associated with jaw popping.

A broken or dislocated jaw, which happens when the joint of the jaw becomes unhinged, can cause jaw popping.

Common causes of injury to the jaw include:

  • road traffic collisions
  • sporting injuries
  • trips and falls
  • physical assaults

It is important to seek medical treatment for a jaw injury, particularly if accompanied by:

  • bleeding
  • bruising
  • swelling

Myofascial pain syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder that causes pain in certain trigger points of some muscles. It occurs after a muscle is contracted repetitively over time. Therefore, it may affect those that have jobs or engage in sporting activities that require repetitive movement.

Myofascial pain syndrome in the jaw can lead to jaw popping.

Symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome include:

  • muscular pain
  • persistent or progressive pain
  • tender points in muscle
  • sleep difficulties
  • changes in mood

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a common disorder characterized by shallow breathing or one or more pauses in breathing, during sleep.

There are two forms of sleep apnea called obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Both can cause jaw popping.

Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • daytime sleepiness
  • headaches
  • mood disorders

People with obstructive sleep apnea may also snore in their sleep.

As sleep apnea can increase the risk of several serious conditions, such as high blood pressureheart attack, and obesity, people with sleep problems should seek immediate medical treatment.

Malocclusion of the teeth

Also known as an overbite or underbite, malocclusion of the teeth causes misalignment of the jaw and the mouth. This can lead to jaw popping or clicking.

Malocclusion of the teeth will usually require professional orthodontic treatment.


In some cases, jaw popping is caused by an infection of the glands of the mouth.

Other signs and symptoms of oral infections include:

  • dry mouth
  • a bad taste in the mouth
  • facial pain
  • inflammation

Antibiotics or other treatments may be necessary to treat oral infections.


Tumors can develop in almost any area of the mouth. Depending on their location, tumors can affect jaw motion, leading to a popping sound or sensation.

Some tumors can lead to cancer development.


Some people may require medical treatments instead of, or in addition to, these home remedies.

Home remedies

Some at-home treatments for jaw popping include:

  • Over-the-counter medications: Naproxen, ibuprofen, or other types of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may relieve pain and swelling in the jaw.
  • Heat and ice packs: Placing an ice pack on the jaw area for 10 to 15 minutes, followed by a warm compress for 5 to 10 minutes, may help relieve symptoms. Alternating hot and cold therapy in this manner may be done several times daily if necessary.
  • Avoid hard or crunchy foods: Crunchy, raw vegetables or chewy foods, such as caramel, may exacerbate jaw popping and other jaw symptoms. Instead, a person should choose soft foods, such as yogurts, cooked vegetables, and beans. Food should be eaten in small bites to avoid opening the mouth too wide.
  • Relax the jaw: When possible, keeping the mouth slightly open by leaving a space between the teeth can relieve pressure on the jaw.
  • Practice stress management: Reducing stress can relieve jaw popping that arises from stress-induced teeth grinding or jaw clenching. Meditation, physical activity, and deep-breathing exercises are examples of effective stress management techniques.
  • Do not overextend the jaw: Avoid activities that involve opening the mouth wide, such as yelling, singing, and chewing gum.
  • Keep good posture: Reduce facial misalignment by changing body posture if necessary.
  • Consider physical therapy: Facial stretches or massage may be beneficial for some people with jaw popping. These options can be discussed with a doctor or physical therapist.

Medical treatment

dental retainerShare on Pinterest
A nightguard may be prescribed to help prevent tooth grinding while sleeping.

Depending on the cause of the jaw popping or the presence of other medical conditions, professional interventions may be necessary for some cases.

Treatment options include:

  • Medication: High doses of NSAIDs, muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety drugs, or antidepressants may be prescribed by a doctor or dentist to manage TMD.
  • Mouthpieces: A splint or nightguard may be used to prevent or manage clenching or grinding of the teeth. These devices can also treat malocclusion of the teeth.
  • Dental work: Overbites, underbites, and other dental issues may be addressed through dental work to reduce jaw popping.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): Using electrical currents, TENS relaxes the muscles of the jaw and face to relieve pain.
  • Pain-relieving injections: For people with myofascial pain syndrome, injections into trigger points may provide relief from jaw pain.
  • Ultrasound: Applying heat to the joint may improve jaw mobility and stop the pain.
  • Laser therapy or radio wave therapy: These treatments stimulate movement and ease pain in the jaw, mouth, and neck.
  • Surgery: This is usually the last resort for people with jaw popping. The type of surgery required will depend on the underlying issue.

For anyone considering surgery for jaw popping symptoms, they should get a second or third opinion before going through with this treatment.


Usually, jaw popping is a temporary condition that clears up with at-home treatments and lifestyle changes.

However, people who experience jaw popping that persists, worsens, recurs, or is accompanied by pain or other symptoms, should consult their doctor. It is important to address the underlying cause of jaw popping to prevent other complications from arising.

TMJ Specialist Los Angeles

Dr. Jacob Elisha has over 30 years of experience in the field of dentistry, periodontics, and cutting-edge restorative techniques in Los Angeles, CA. Dr. Jacob Elisha is an authority in on TMJ Disorders. He has successfully treated patients with TMJ disorders in Los Angeles in the past and looks forward to the future.

TMJ Disorders. An award-winning oral maxillofacial surgeon and Los Angeles TMJ specialist, Dr. Jacob Elisha is known for providing among the most effective TMJ treatment Beverly Hills has to offer—improving jaw function and delivering permanent relief from chronic pain.

TMJ disorders affect your temporomandibular joint, which allows your mouth to open and move smoothly. We offer specialized treatment in Los Angeles, CA . The temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-man-DIB-u-lur) joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. TMJ disorders — a type of temporomandibular disorder or TMD — can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement. The exact cause of a person’s TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. Your pain may be due to a combination of factors, such as genetics, arthritis or jaw injury. Some people who have jaw pain also tend to clench or grind their teeth (bruxism), although many people habitually clench or grind their teeth and never develop TMJ disorders. In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders is temporary and can be relieved with self-managed care or nonsurgical treatments. Surgery is typically a last resort after conservative measures have failed, but some people with TMJ disorders may benefit from surgical treatments. TMJ disorders can also cause a clicking sound or grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew. But if there’s no pain or limitation of movement associated with your jaw clicking, you probably don’t need treatment for a TMJ disorder. Seek medical attention if you have persistent pain or tenderness in your jaw, or if you can’t open or close your jaw completely. Your doctor, your dentist or a TMJ specialist can discuss possible causes and treatments for your problem.

What are the risk factors for TMJ syndrome? There are several risk factors for TMD: Poor posture in the neck and upper back muscles may lead to neck strain and abnormalities of jaw muscle function. Stress may increase muscle tension and jaw clenching. Women 18-44 years of age have increased risk. Patients with other chronic inflammatory arthritis have increased risk. People with jaw trauma or poorly positioned teeth have increased risk. People who have a genetic predisposition to pain sensitivity and increased stress responses may be more susceptible.

The temporomandibular joint is more commonly referred to as the TMJ joint, but what is TMJ? This joint is actually located at the base of the skull in front of the ear structure and connects the lower jaw (mandible) with the upper jaw (maxilla). Unlike most joints located in the body, the TMJ is unique in its structure, composed of a rounded protrusion of the mandible that sits against an indentation in the skull, and a disc-like structure made of a soft bone called cartilage found in between the two bones (articular disc). These three parts of the TMJ are held together by ligaments originating from different parts of the head and neck to support the jaw and guide its movements. Several muscles are connected to those ligaments, and many aid in the motion of the lower jaw. How Does it Work? The TMJ works in two ways to open your mouth: The first way is like a hinge to simply open and close the mouth, just like a hinge on a door. The second way is a sliding motion called translation, wherein your lower jaw moves down and forward. This motion helps the TMJ to move backward and forward and from side to side for actions such as eating, yawning and singing – some of the most common. What Can Happen to the TMJ? Like any other joint in the body, the TMJ can be fractured, swell and become sore, causing limited movement of the lower jaw and pain radiating to the head and neck area. A fracture to the actual articular disc is rare, but it can be displaced, causing severe pain and swelling. Unlike other joints such as knees and hips, arthritis of the TMJ is very rare, and hard to treat with anti-inflammatory drugs alone. Nonetheless, pain in the TMJ is often temporary, and can be treated with a combination of ice then heat to relieve the sore ligaments and muscles surrounding the joint. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. Temporomandibular joint disorder, known more commonly as TMD, occurs when there are problems with the muscles and jaws in the face. There are many signs and symptoms of TMD. It’s often hard to know for sure if you have TMD, because one or all of these symptoms can also be present for other problems. Your dentist can help make a proper diagnosis. What About Grinding and Clenching? Sometimes, pain in the TMJ can come from the teeth themselves, as opposed to the TMJ and surrounding ligaments.

As a TMJ doctor, Dr. Jacob Elisha delivers a TMJ treatment in Los Angeles for patients who are suffering from extreme pain to help resolve the condition. Because TMJ disorders can be extremely painful, Dr. Jacob Elisha’s first priority is symptom relief. Although these measures won’t permanently cure TMJ, they will alleviate much of the chronic pain associated with the condition. This variety makes diagnosis and treatment challenging. An accurate diagnosis is critical for successful treatment. For instance, patients with a muscle problem that is causing pain will most likely not benefit from surgery on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Ask about your doctor’s experience in diagnosing and treating TMJ and facial pain. Most problems, whether muscular or within the joint, get better over time. For this reason, most experts agree that it’s best to use conservative treatment at first. But in some instances, surgery or other procedures, such as injections, may be recommended as a first treatment. Most people with TMD have temporary symptoms that are not serious and do not get worse. They usually can get better with simple treatments done at home. Sometimes symptoms go away without any treatment at all. They also can come back without warning. If you have TMD, your dentist may suggest the treatments listed below. Most dentists agree that these treatments work best in combination. You may not get relief using only one. To begin, Dr. Jacob Elisha will prescribe a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant to relieve muscle spasms and joint pain. In some cases, he may also inject a specialized steroid directly into the joints to dramatically reduce pain and inflammation. From there, Dr. Jacob Elisha will prescribe self-care treatments—advising the patient to rest the jaw, eat soft foods, apply ice to the affected area and practice proper posture. Depending on the specifics of your TMJ disorder, he may also recommend physical therapy to improve jaw function

(310) 231-5100
Skip to content