Why Does My Jaw Pop When I Eat?

Does it hurt your teeth or jaw when you eat? When you eat hard or crunchy foods, does your jaw pop or click? Tooth pain and sensitivity, jaw popping, and jaw clicking are all signs of a TMJ disorder. Conditions like arthritis, injuries, stress, and a misaligned bite can exacerbate temporomandibular joint disorders. Here, we will review the common causes of jaw popping and how these problems can exacerbate painful TMJ disorders.

What Causes Jaw Popping?

There can be multiple reasons why your jaw pops when you eat:

  • Injured Jaw/TMJ: The temporomandibular joints connect the jaw bone to the skull and act as hinges to help the jaw open and close. Injury or stress to these joints or to the jaw can lead to jaw popping and clicking, pain when eating, headaches, and teeth clenching and grinding.
  • Bite Misalignment: Malocclusion, or a bad bite, occurs when the teeth are not properly aligned. This condition places increased pressure on the teeth and jaw. If the teeth do not make even contact when biting down, patients can begin to experience pain in their jaw, in addition to popping and clicking, when eating.
  • Arthritis: Conditions like arthritis can damage the cartilage in the temporomandibular joints. As a result, the jaw may pop or click when patients with arthritis eat.

How to Treat Jaw Popping and Clicking in Arlington Heights

Some of the most effective ways to prevent jaw popping include:

  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can teach TMJ-specific exercises to prevent muscle stiffness and pain in the face and jaw. They can also teach exercises that work the arm, neck, and shoulder muscles. Stress in the upper body can often contribute to TMJ disorders.
  • Nightguards: Wearing a nightguard during sleep can stop teeth clenching and grinding, also known as bruxism. Many patients with TMD develop bruxism unconsciously when in stressful situations or during sleep. A custom-made acrylic nightguard keeps the teeth from touching and can bring the lower jaw forward. Creating even contact with the upper and lower teeth can also help relax the temporomandibular joints and facial muscles.
  • Medication: Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can treat pain caused by tension in the jaw. Muscle relaxants taken before sleep can also stop bruxism.
  • Orthodontics: If patients have a misaligned bite, straightening their smile can help stop jaw popping and clicking. Straightening teeth can also lessen the chance of developing TMD or problems like gum disease and tooth decay, as it can be hard to clean between crooked teeth.

Do you want to stop jaw pain and jaw popping when you eat? Are you experiencing increasing symptoms, including teeth clenching and grinding? Contact Dr. Brent Engelberg for a dental appointment online or call AH Smiles at (847) 230-9703.