Often most people experience a sudden click or a cracking sound as soon as they open their mouth wide to fit in that huge burger or while giving a big yawn. And it is then, when you suddenly hear this click sound when you open your mouth wide, that makes you feel something is wrong. but this should not be ignored as it may have severe consequences.
So what is this TMJ and why should you know about it?
Lower jaw known as Mandible is connected to the upper jaw and skull by a special joint called Temporomandicular joint or more commonly called as the jaw joint. The jaw joint helps in chewing, speaking, sucking, yawning and swallowing. This joint is present on either sides, right and left side 4 cms in front or your ear. Just like you have a articular disc in your knee joint similarly an articular disc is present inside this jaw joint. It is a tough pad of dense fibrous tissue present between the 2 parts and it acts as a shock absorber. Any damage to this disc can cause this sound to occur which is because of the friction between both the bones.
Where exactly is your TMJ or jaw joint ?
To know where this click sound actually comes from, you need to place your fingers in front of your ears and open and close your jaw to feel the motion. When you open widely (as in yawning), this motion feels like a hinge. This is exactly the place from where this click sound comes from when you open or close your mouth.
Why should you care about the click sound and your TMJ?
The clicking sound that comes from your jaw joint is actually referred to as the disorder of the TMJ. This is mostly happens because of damage to the articular disc inside the joint.
happens where and when the joint is not able to function properly This temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is an umbrella term that includes disturbances or conditions that affect the joint and/or muscles. It encompasses symptoms associated with those conditions.
Symptoms like pain in the jaw, ears, face, neck and upper back, locking of the jaw( inability to open or close your mouth), shifting of the jaw to one side while eating, clicking or snapping sounds in the joint when yawning, speaking, or while chewing food. Keep in mind that occasional clicking or discomfort in jaw joint or chewing muscles is common. But a symptomatic TMD may limit daily, social, or work-related activities.
How do you know if you have limited mouth opening ? Maximum opening movement of the jaw is 50 to 60 mm, depending on the age and size of the individual. Placing 3 fingers inside your mouth is a way to assess the jaw opening. If you are able to insert them easily then there is nothing to worry. But if not, you should. TMD is more common in females and people belonging to the age group of 20-40 as stress is the main reason causing it to happen in the first place.
Habits that can cause Temporomandibular disorder(TMD)
Habits are a routine of behaviors that one tends to perform subconsciously. Unusual habits related to mouth lead to disturbance in teeth relation and can perpetuate muscular disturbance eventually affecting the TM joint and associated muscles. Muscle pain or fatigue is often related to psychologically motivated, persistent, stress relieving oral habits.
1. Occupational Behaviours:
Use of teeth to perform tearing, cutting or holding things. Biting onto needles in case of tailors, avoiding bottle openers by bar tenders, shouting or constant speaking in case of orators.
2. Tobacco consumption:
Be it in form of tobacco chewing, smoking cigarettes or pipe smoking, it can hurt your jaw. Chewing of hard substances such as tobacco causes wear of your teeth and overuse of TMJ and muscles. It can cause TMJ discomfort and pain. Research has shown that smokers are at a higher risk for chronic pain conditions, including TMJ than non-smokers.
3. Oral Habits:
Chewing on pencil or pen, Lip biting, nail biting, clenching of jaw, sucking of thumb in children. These can add pressure to already tired jaw muscles. Even excessive chewing of gums may lead to overuse of TMJ musculature. This stress-related habits, are something that people often do without thinking about.
4. Chewing from only one side:
This might actually be a sign, that the side unused has a causative tooth/teeth. But eating from one side only can stress out the TMJ of that side leading to TMD. Try to be aware of your chewing pattern and notice if teeth on either side are troublesome.
Some people also have a habit of chewing gums for hours together. this habit might also affect your jaw joint because it causes more stress to the muscles and the joint.
5. Slouched posture:
The neck and jaw are intimately connected hence paying attention to your posture becomes important. A laid back and slouched posture associated with table work and overuse of laptops and cell phones can place undue stresses on the cervical spine (neck) and musculature which affects the position of the lower jaw (mandible). Poor posture may alter or cause tension in the TMJ and associated muscles.
6. Excessive mouth opening:
Unintentional wide mouth opening can occur while eating an apple/ burger, yawning, singing or even laughing. This can also cause soreness of muscles and acute pain in TMJ.
7. Bruxism or grinding of teeth
Clenching or grinding your teeth is generally observed in people with malocclusions; anxiety or stress; suppressed anger; or person who is hyperactive; uses caffeine, tobacco, or drugs like cocaine and amphetamines. If you have a habit of grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw during the day as well as at night this can be the main cause of your TMJ disorder, that is the click sound that comes when you open your mouth.
But these habits may increase the soreness or pain that you experience with an existing disorder. Bruxism is also an under-recognized habit and not many people even know they actually do it. what you should also know is, some drugs have bruxism as their side effects specially the use of antipsychotics and selective serotonin inhibitors.
8. Resting your Chin:
Unnoticed act of sleeping on stomach with lower jaw supported by forearm or resting jaw in hands while studying, browsing social media, or watching TV. This position may be comfortable, but it can knock your jaw out (not literally!). This pressure against the side of your jaw may push against the joint. This pressure on the joint moves the disc out of place which hampers the motion of your jaw joint.
Home remedies, therapies or doctor’s treatment?
Large population with any musculoskeletal problem simply waits for the pain to fade away. But if you are experiencing a problem with TMJ (the most used joint), you shouldn’t wait to get treatment. TMD’s are often non progressive and have a good rate of recovery with conservative treatment.
Your dentist can diagnose TMD at an early stage and suggest easy exercises to self-treat your condition. Stress, most of the times is the root for all habits. Stress relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, simply walking or breathing for 5 minutes can also help. Doing what one loves can work wonders. Sleep is also considered as the best solution for stress.
Treatment line usually involves:
- Exercises to get your jaw moving normally.
- Anti-inflammatory medications.
- A splint or night guard during night time to help with teeth grinding. Surgery might be the last resort in extreme cases. But getting your jaw opening and closing without pain is the ultimate motive.
- Be aware of your patterns of behavior related to mouth. (Oral habits) Choose food wisely, eat consciously.
- Be aware of your back and neck posture.
- Don’t Stress the could haves. If it should have, it would have!
- The clicking sound is far more often experienced by people these days as one of the main reason behind this is stress.
- Click sound that comes when you open or close your mouth is a sign of temporomandibular disorder(TMD)
- Stress is one of the main reasons for clenching and grinding of teeth that causes damage to the jaw joint.
- Excessive chewing on chewing gums can also cause pain in your jaw joint causing its damage.
- Pain in your jaw joint should not be ignored. Seek help from your dentist and get it treated at the earliest.