Many people experience a clicking noise or sensation when opening or closing their mouth. This can be very loud and noticeable to others near you while you are eating or even talking. This noise can be very disconcerting and may or may not be associated with the experience of pain. If you have been experiencing uncomfortable or worrisome jaw clicking, Melbourne TMJ & Facial Pain Centre™ can assist with tailored treatment programs, manual therapy and at-home maintenance and rehabilitation exercises. If left to worsen, jaw clicking that becomes louder, painful or leads to a real locking sensation (where you can only open 2 fingers width), should be seen as a priority to avoid longer term TMJ issues. Call us on 03 9824 8868 TODAY for an appointment.
Understanding what makes the clicking noise. In order to do this let’s help give you a basic understanding of the anatomy of the TMJ.
The jaw (TMJ) is made up of the jaw bone or mandible and the temporal bones of the skull. The anatomical term for the jaw joint is the temporomandibular joint or TMJ. You have a left and right TMJ. The jaw joint (TMJ) is surrounded by a capsule or envelope. Separating the mandible bone from the temporal bones in each joint is a disc (like the cartilage or meniscus in your knee joint). This serves to cushion the bones and prevent wear and tear of the bone surfaces. Keeping the disc and joint in a stable position are a series of ligaments. The jaw functions by the action of many muscles which work to open close and move the jaw in the necessary directions required for normal function such as eating & speaking.
FIG 1 – showing the disc clicking out (2nd picture) and then back into position (3rd picture)
Remember from the description of the jaw above that we said that there was a disc separating the mandible bone (the lower jaw) from the temporal bone of the skull. This disc can become displaced forwards from its natural position between the end of the mandible (the condyle) and the temporal bone (which forms the socket of the jaw joint). This can occur due to a number of factors. When this disc re-locates back to its normal position (which is required for completion of the opening movement), a clicking noise is heard. Clicking thus indicates that there is an issue with the disc position.
Excessive forces on the joint from clenching, grinding, or extended mouth opening or trauma can disrupt disc position causing the disc to become dislodged forwards. Another reason the disc can become dislodged forwards is that the muscle that attaches to the disc (the lateral pterygoid muscle), can become over active or go into spasm from over use or from fatigue when the mouth is opened for a long time during dental procedures. When this happens, the lateral pterygoid muscle pulls the disc into an incorrect forwards position off the top of the condyle. The back of the disc is normally secured to the joint by an elastic type tissue. If this elastic tissue becomes stretched as a result of the disc being in the abnormal position, the elastic tissue loses it elastic properties and thus cannot pull the disc back into the correct position. The relocation of the disc into the correct position then occurs with movement of the jaw bone – resulting in the clicking noise as the disc and bone realign temporarily allowing full movement. Clicking that occurs on both opening and closing of the mouth is called a reciprocal click. As the disc problem becomes more severe, the disc may not be able to be relocated and will result in an inability to open the mouth fully (jaw locking or ‘closed lock’). When this occurs, your clicking will have stopped as the disc is unable to click back into place. This is a much more severe problem and requires immediate treatment. If this describes your symptoms then please don’t delay. Call us on 03 9824 8868 TODAY for an appointment. Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause structural problems in the TMJ and may then result in a disc issue and associated click.
Patients with clicking jaws (and thus disc problems) may also be experiencing:
If any of the above symptoms are preventing you from living comfortably, contact Melbourne TMJ Centre about our jaw clicking and TMJ disorder treatments. Call us on 03 9824 8868 TODAY for an appointment.
It is important to establish what the cause of the click is in your jaw and to address these causes. If your jaw makes clicking noises but is not accompanied by pain, this may still indicate the beginnings of a problem developing. If the clicking become louder, more frequent or associated with pain, this indicates a progression of the problem. Jaw locking and loss of the click indicates that the disc is not able to be relocated into the correct position and requires immediate treatment. If this describes your symptoms then please don’t delay. Call us on 03 9824 8868 TODAY for an appointment.
Treating jaw and face pain conditions is a very specific field of treatment, meaning it can be difficult to find the appropriate care. At Melbourne TMJ & Facial Pain Centre™, our experienced Physiotherapists are specially trained to asses and treat jaw clicking and locking at our Armadale clinic, as well as related conditions or symptoms. Our 24 years of clinical experience and membership of ANZAOP, AACP and APA demonstrates our special interest in and dedication to in treating TMJ disorders. If you have been left underwhelmed by other medical practitioners who do not have an in-depth understanding of TMJ disorders, turn to Melbourne TMJ & Facial Pain Centre™ instead for specialised support.
The earlier you address these issues, the more likely you are to prevent them from progressing into more severe problems. Call us today on 03 9824 8868 to address your jaw (TMJ) related problems.