Constant Jaw Popping & Clicking: Causes & Treatment Options

Constant Jaw Popping & Clicking: Causes & Treatment Options
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Constant Jaw Popping & Clicking: Causes & Treatment OptionsClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. The Basics
  2. Causes
  3. When to Seek Treatment
  4. Treatment Options
  5. References

Your jaw can pop or click when you open your mouth too wide or overuse the muscle. Often, the clicking and popping will go away on its own. When your jaw clicks and pops more constantly and becomes a chronic condition, this is often a form of TMD, which is also called TMJ.

More than 10 million Americans struggle with temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ or TMD), and more women are affected than men. This disorder impacts the jaw and can cause it to pop and click. It often also induces pain.1

TMD is not widely understood. There are a variety of potential causes for the disorder, including stress, injury, teeth grinding, and medical conditions.

Jaw popping and clicking can be loud, and it can impact your ability to eat, talk, and smile. It can greatly affect your overall quality of life.
TMD is one of the most common pain disorders, following headache and low back pain, and it can have long-term symptoms. The treatment for TMD, and jaw popping and clicking, will depend on what is causing it. Often, it can be managed at home.

The Basics

Your temporomandibular joint connects your mandible (lower jaw) to your temporal bone in the side of your skull. There are muscles that control the movement of your jaw and allow the condyles (rounded ends of your lower jaw) to move smoothly within the joint socket of your temporal bone.

There is a soft disc of cartilage that sits between these two bones to cushion this movement. This disc can move out of place and snap back into its correct location when you open your mouth, making a clicking or popping sound. It can also move back out of place when you close your mouth, again clicking or popping.

Your jaw can pop or click temporarily because of overuse or overextending it, or it can pop and click more regularly due to TMD. With TMD, in addition to the popping and clicking, you can also often experience pain, limited jaw movement, and additional issues. The disorder is reported to be a multisystem and complex condition that impacts the digestive, endocrine, circulatory, immune, muscular, nervous, respiratory, exocrine, reproductive, and skeletal systems.

Causes of Jaw Clicking & Popping

There is no known specific cause for TMD, or jaw popping and clicking. There are risk factors that can play a role, such as the following:2

  • Teeth grinding
  • Injury to the jaw, which can cause it to become broken or dislocated
  • Nail biting
  • Excessive gum chewing on a regular basis
  • Biting the inside of the lip or cheek
  • Sleep apnea or disrupted sleep
  • Arthritis, which can lead to cartilage damage
  • Myofascial pain syndrome in the jaw
  • Infection of the glands of the mouth
  • Misalignment of jaw or mouth, such as an overbite or underbite (malocclusion)
  • Tumors in the mouth or jaw

Women typically develop TMD more frequently than men, so there could be a connection between female hormones and its onset. Stress can also be a causal factor for jaw popping and clicking.

When to Get Treatment for Jaw Popping

Treatment methods for jaw popping and clicking are dependent on what the underlying cause is. It is common for the jaw to pop and click at times.

Most of the time, jaw popping and clicking will go away in a few weeks or months, and it is not cause for concern. However, it can be the sign of an underlying condition that should be checked out.

If your jaw clicks and pops regularly for a long period of time, and you are experiencing pain and/or other symptoms along with the popping and clicking, you should see a medical professional to find out what the cause might be.

Treatment Options

Typically, jaw clicking and popping is part of a temporary condition. It can often stop on its own without the need for treatment.

When treatment is necessary, the least invasive and non-permanent options are considered best.3 Try to avoid treatments that are going to change your jaw or bite permanently, or those that are invasive, such as surgery.

Here are some less invasive management and treatment options:

  • Chew soft foods.
  • Avoid extreme or repetitive jaw movements, including gum chewing.
  • Use ice packs for pain.
  • Try over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications for short-term relief.
  • Practice stress management and jaw relaxation techniques.
  • Consider physical therapy and massage.
  • Try wearing nightguards or mouthpieces at night to prevent teeth grinding and clenching while you sleep.
  • Consider dental work. Necessary dental work can correct an overbite or underbite, which can help with jaw popping and clicking and TMD.

Your dentist and medical professional will need to work together to determine the cause of constant jaw popping and clicking, especially if there is also chronic pain and/or additional symptoms that need to be addressed. This can sometimes be related to an underlying medical condition that will need to be addressed.

Most of the time, the best thing to do for jaw popping and clicking is to manage it at home by keeping your jaw relaxed as much as possible. Self-care practices can help with this.

General References

If You Hear a Click in Your Jaw This is What You Need to Know. (June 2017). The Washington Post. Date Fetched: September 22, 2021.

TMJ Basics. (2021). TMJ Association. Date Fetched: September 22, 2021.

Medical References

1 TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint & Muscle Disorders). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Date Fetched: September 22, 2021.

2 Why Does My Jaw Hurt?30575-6/fulltext) (December 2019). The Journal of the American Dental Association. Date Fetched: September 22, 2021.

3 Less Is Often Best in Treating TMJ Disorders. (May 2013). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Date Fetched: September 22, 2021.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.