TMJ Popping: When to See a Dentist

Posted on: August 7, 2019

Your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is a hinge-like joint that connects your upper and lower jaws. You have two of them, one on either side of your mouth. When these joints work like they are supposed to, you barely notice them. When they do not, you may experience all sorts of problems, ranging from mildly annoying to debilitating.

One symptom of a TMJ disorder is a popping sensation in the joints. You may feel your jaw pop as you open and close your mouth. You may feel it pop as you move your jaws from side to side, usually as you chew. So, how can you tell if the popping in your jaw is serious? Let us start with a primer of how the TMJ works.

How the TMJ works and why it pops sometimes

The temporomandibular joint works like a hinge that moves in multiple directions. It is surrounded by muscles whose job is to move the mouth. The joint allows the jaws to move in three main ways:

  • Forward and backward
  • Sideways
  • Upward and downward

The mouth combines the three movements while talking, chewing and yawning. The bones that make up the joint have a spongy, cartilaginous disk between them. This padding protects the jaws from coming into contact and grinding away at each other. It also allows the jaw to have a wider range of motion compared to other hinged joints.

But like a door hinge that needs some lubricating oil, the TMJ can crackle and pop, especially if the padding inside the joint wears thin or if the joint becomes misaligned. Here is how to know if the popping is a source of concern:

1. If one has recently experienced trauma to the mouth

A person that has taken a blow to the mouth may have an injury that may cause the jaw to pop. If the blow did not feel serious at the time of the incident, an injured person would likely brush it off. However, after a few days, they may notice a popping sensation as they move their jaw. An injury might cause the TMJ to become slightly misaligned.

2. Pain

If a person feels pain along with the popping, they likely have a TMJ disorder. The popping may be accompanied by a grinding or crackling sensation, which would be the source of the pain. Along with the pain, the person will experience a limited range of motion in their mouth. Pain is a good indicator that it is time to see a dentist.

3. A jaw that keeps locking

Difficulty in moving the jaw is a telltale sign of TMJ disorder. A person that has trouble opening or closing their mouth should seek help immediately. With the help of a dental specialist, the patient will get a definitive diagnosis and start treatment for the disorder.

Do not ignore discomfort in your jaw

If the popping in your jaw comes with pain and limited motion, visit us at our Aurora office for an exam. We will get to the bottom of the problem and start you on a course of treatment.

Request an appointment here: or call Lotus Family Dental: Yuki Dykes DDS at (303) 502-2744 for an appointment in our Aurora office.

Check out what others are saying about our services on Yelp: Read our Yelp reviews.

Related Posts

August 8, 2019

When Should You Consider a Smile Makeover?

A smile makeover involves one or more dental procedures used to fix a patient’s smile. The most common procedures dentists use to perform smile makeovers include teeth whitening, composite resin bonds, dental veneers, dental crowns …

August 2, 2019

The Pros and Cons of Dental Veneers

Dental veneers are a convenient and easy way to brighten or even out someone's smile. Veneers are thin pieces of porcelain or composite resin material that are cemented to the front surfaces of natural teeth. …

July 16, 2019

FAQs About a Kid Friendly Dentist

When parents first begin looking for a kid friendly dentist, they may not understand the benefits of having one or why one is so important. Before choosing between a pediatric and a family practitioner, a …

July 15, 2019

Can I Treat the Dental Crown on an Implant Like a Normal Tooth?

If you know someone with a dental crown on an implant, you can see how realistic it looks. Then in talking to the individual, you learn it also feels comfortable. However, does that mean that …