Is A Clicking Jaw a Sign of TMD?

Is A Clicking Jaw a Sign of TMD?

Jaw clicking or popping is a problem that affects approximately 10 million people. If you have this condition, you get to experience some popping or clicking sound when opening or closing your mouth. In addition, the sounds may come with painful sensations on your jaw. In some cases, jaw clicking or popping may arise from overextending your jaw through actions such as opening your mouth too wide when eating or yawning. The problem can also arise from problems in your temporomandibular joints.

Now, temporomandibular joints connect the jawbone to the sides of your skull. When these joints are dysfunctional, you get a condition called a temporomandibular disorder, temporomandibular joint disorder – TMJD, but commonly shortened to TMD. Now, if your jaw pops or clicks without the painful sensations, then you have no reason to worry. However, if you have underlying conditions, it is important to seek medical intervention immediately. Here you get to learn about TMJ vs TMD, symptoms of the disorder, causes, and possible treatments.


TMJ is the joint that connects your jaws, while TMD – temporomandibular disorder – is a disorder that affects these joints.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

Normally, with TMJ jaw clicking, the popping or clicking sound may be the only symptom. However, if you are experiencing a temporomandibular disorder, you should watch out for the following signs of TMD.

  • Discomfort and pain
  • Facial or jaw tenderness
  • Difficulties in opening your mouth wide
  • Jaw lock that happens in a closed or open position
  • Eating difficulties
  • Swelling in the face
  • Aching teeth
  • Headache
  • Aching neck
  •  Earache

It is also worth noting that these signs of TMD might be present without any clicking or popping.

Causes of TMD

Essentially, the temporomandibular joint disorder develops from jaw problems. Typically, you will most likely develop TMD if your jaw muscles or the temporomandibular joints have problems.

According to research carried out by the National Institute of Craniofacial Research, women are more affected than men of the 10 million people affected by this disorder. However, this is not to say that men are safe. TMJ jaw clicking can affect any person of any gender or age. Though the particular causes of TMD are not known, the disorder is majorly associated with the following particular behaviors.

  • Teeth grinding – also referred to as bruxism
  • Regular or excessive chewing of gum
  • Biting of nails
  • Jaw clenching
  • Biting your lips and cheeks

In addition to these behaviors, you can develop the signs of TMD if you suffer from the following medical conditions.


Essentially, arthritis is a condition or disease that affects the joints. The most common types of arthritis are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis

Typically, arthritis can cause damage to your temporomandibular joint cartilage. When this condition destroys the temporomandibular joints, moving your jaw becomes difficult. Consequently, you may develop a clicking or popping sound that comes with a painful sensation in the joints. Other symptoms of TMD caused by arthritis include:

  • Pain in the joints
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Stiffness of the jaws
  • Reduction in the range of motions that your jaw can conduct

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may also experience other symptoms such as losing appetite and extreme fatigue.

Broken or Injured Jaw

A dislocated or broken jaw – which normally happens when the jaw becomes unhinged – can cause your jaw to produce clicking or popping sounds. You might suffer from a jaw injury due to the following.

  • Sports injuries
  • Physical assault where somebody hits you on your jaw
  • Traffic accidents and collisions
  • Common falls and trips

If you experience bleeding, swelling, or bruising due to a jaw injury, it is advisable to seek immediate treatment.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is a severe pain disorder normally associated with causing pain in particular trigger points of various muscles. In most cases, it occurs when a particular muscle gets contracted on a repetitive basis over a while. Therefore, it is commonly experienced by people with jobs or activities that require repetitive movement. If you suffer from myofascial pain syndrome in the jaw, you can also experience jaw clicking or jaw popping. Common symptoms of this syndrome include:

  • Pain in the muscles
  • Tender areas in your muscles
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulties in sleeping
  • Progressive and persistent pain

Sleep Apnea

Essentially, sleep apnea is a condition that is mainly characterized by very shallow breathing and breathing pauses when sleeping. The two major categories of sleep apnea are central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. Despite the type of sleep apnea, you can develop TMJ clicking. Want to know the signs of sleep apnea? They include the following:

  • Mood disorders
  • Feeling sleepy during the day
  • Consistent headaches

If your popping arises from sleep apnea, you may also snore in your sleep.
If your TMJ clicking is due to sleep apnea, you can also be at the risk of developing other severe conditions such as:

  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity

You should seek medical attention if the above-stated sleep apnea symptoms accompany your TMJ clicking.

Malocclusion in Your Teeth

Though a rare cause, jaw popping or clicking could also arise from an underbite or an overbite. Essentially, malocclusion is a condition where you have teeth misalignment. This can lead to misalignment of your mouth and jaw. If your signs of TMD arise from malocclusion, then you will need an orthodontist to correct your problem.

Diagnosing TMD

The diagnosis for this disorder is not a clear-cut process. However, you can determine whether you have the disorder by doing the following:

  • Providing detailed information about your dental history
  • Listening to your jaws for a clicking or popping sound
  • Examining your jaws through motion and stiffness evaluation
  • Undertaking an X-ray

How to Treat TMD

Treatment for TMD is highly dependent on the particular cause. In most cases, your doctor treats your disorder by treating the underlying causes. However, you can do the following to relieve yourself from the discomfort of this problem.

  • Eat soft foods
  • Use ice packs or heat to help your jaw muscles relax
  • Avoiding extreme movement of the jaw
  • Reducing stress, practicing relaxation, and learning special techniques
  • Performing muscle relaxing exercises
  • Using guards to prevent grinding or clenching

Are you looking for jaw clicking treatment? At TDM treatment Los Angeles, we offer treatment for jaw clicking or popping. To learn more, contact us today at TDM treatment Los Angeles for more information.

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