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The jaw clicks when opening the mouth: why does it happen and how to get rid of it?

why a jaw clicks when opening a mouth

The ability to chew food, and most importantly, the ability to talk the mankind owes to the development of the jaw system, namely temporomandibular joint.

Due to the evolution of this joint, it has started to provide the necessary mobility of the lower jaw. And yet sometimes it gives a “failure”. Particularly with violations of its functions, such a common symptom as the clicking of the jaw while opening the mouth is connected.


Most often, such a symptom as a click when opening the mouth is not painful itself. A person may feel discomfort when performing standard actions as well as, hear the characteristic sound. Many people eventually just get used to such conditions and stop paying attention to it, until the disease develops to the next stage.

Physiologically, such a joint state can be explained by the fact that during certain movements a jaw joint comes out of the joint capsule, slightly shifts to the side, and in return, the same sound that we hear is produced.

People of all ages face problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), including children. Let’s find out why does a jaw start to click when yawning, eating and just when you open your mouth. The main reasons are:

  • Malocclusion;
  • Not properly conducted dental treatment (filling of the tooth without taking into account the anatomical features, not proper prosthetics etc.). Similar actions may lead to a violation of symmetry in the jaw and a redistribute of the load when chewing, resulting in displaced discs;
  • Sudden intense pressure of the facial muscles (such condition can be caused by a lot of stress, or attempt to chew very solid foods during high exertion in sports);
  • Long performances (singing, recitation, declamation). This factor often leads to malfunctions of the TMJ in children;
  • Jaw injuries may be a provoking factor for a temporomandibular joint dysfunction;
  • Bruxism (a condition where the person cannot relax the jaw during a sleep and constantly grinds the teeth);
  • Caries. In the most advanced forms may result in a violation of the joint function.
  • TMJ arthritis (after suffering from a purulent infection of the oral cavity diseases – tonsillitis, otitis, gonorrhea, tuberculosis).


the jaw clicks when chewingIt is rather difficult to correctly diagnose disorders in the TMJ. Patients often seek for help only in already severe cases, when it is not problematic to determine the root cause and to understand this condition has developed.

For the correct diagnosis, a doctor conducts a thorough survey of the patient, examination of the jaw, and uses the results of additional studies: X-ray, MRI, CT scan, arthroscopy.

What to do and how to treat?

The treatment of disorders of the mandibular joint function will be conducted by experts of a dental specialization. It is desirable to consult with several doctors of different specialization in order to obtain a complete picture. In the most difficult cases, the help of a surgeon may even be necessary.

The treatment of the symptom of clicking jaws will depend on the cause of such a state. In some cases, it requires a long and painstaking work to correct dental issues (retreatment of teeth, the replacement of dentures, an occlusion correction, etc.).

Feasible assistance can be provided by wearing joint mouth guards. Good results are given after physiotherapy.

Treatment of TMJ dysfunction may be accompanied by the appointment of anti-inflammatory and pain medications. Though it is not smart to buy everything in drug stores; it is better when the drugs were prescribed by a doctor.

What can you do at home?

Violation of the normal functioning of the jaw joint creates a certain discomfort when performing the simplest actions, and it may be accompanied by severe pain. A person cannot speak normally and eat.

A warm compress will help a little bit improve the condition and to relieve the pain. The heat is applied to the affected area (it may even be a conventional bottle with hot water) so as not to cause burns of a tissue.

If the inflammatory process has already begun, it is better to use ice sticking to the same technology. Cold is applied to aching joints for no more than 15 minutes with breaks between treatments in 1 hour.

Feasible assistance in removing the pain and in the treatment of inflammation will provide infusions and decoctions of herbs (St. John’s worth, cranberries, calendula, nettle, pine buds – are used locally).

Besides that, you should make as little load on the jaw as possible. Give up solid food for some time that you need to chew hard. Carefully chew the food, eat “soft” products, eat small pieces so as not to open jaw widely.

Learn to relax. Certain relaxation techniques can help cope with the pain and treat TMJ disorders.

Physiotherapy will help

the jaw clicks causesAfter the pain has been removed, you can carefully do exercises to relax the jaw muscles. Before the procedure, it is necessary to make a warm compress, which stimulates the circulation of blood.

Exercises should be repeated up to 4 times a day with small breaks between positions. All movements are performed very carefully. They should not cause any pain.

  • Move the lower jaw up and down by 3 cm. Each position 10 times.
  • Push the jaw from the natural position to the right and left until it stops 10 times.
  • Put a hand on the chin and gently push on it, and the jaw is necessary to lift up, trying to overcome the resistance. 10 repetitions. This exercise will help “teach” muscles the reflex relaxation.
  • Place a hand on the chin, gently push on it, the jaw at the same time overcoming the resistance, should come forth.

If the jaw still hurts

There are no nerve endings in joints, as it is known. Therefore, irregularities in their functioning are not accompanied by pain – a person simply experiences some discomfort when talking and chewing food, and hears clicking.

One pathology invariably affects the adjacent organs and systems, so the pain can often occur in the ears, in the head, teeth, muscles of the face, neck, and even the shoulders. The patient may complain of sensations of tinnitus, and in some cases – hearing loss.

A headache is a very frequent symptom of TMJ disorders. It can thus be concentrated in the temporal or occipital part. It is so strong that even a doctor can be mistaken and take it for migraines, and continue brain research to identify the cause of pain.

Arthritis of the temporomandibular joint

The clicking of the joint, accompanied by severe pain can be a symptom of such a disease as arthritis. The cause of the disease is an infection that gets inside of the joint, actively grows and provokes inflammation, and eventually destroys the tissue. Besides, the occurrence of the disease may be caused by mechanical injury, particularly if the blood has got into the joint.

The lack of proper attention to this issue on the part of the patient can lead to such a disease as ankyloses (restriction of mobility of the lower jaw or to the absolute inability of any movements), or develop into the chronic form.

Chronic or acute arthritis of temporomandibular joint requires a long and painstaking care.

Generally, the disease can be identified by the following characteristics:

  • There is a distinctive click when you open your mouth. In some cases, several clicks (they are often qualified as a crunch). At the same time opening the mouth causes great difficulties.
  • The patient complains of pain in the joint, which intensifies when chewing food, with pressure on the joint area and when examined by a doctor.
  • Redness and some swelling can be observed around the place of inflammation.
  • The patient can observe some displacement of the lower jaw to the side of inflammation.
  • On the stage of suppuration, partial loss of hearing dizziness, general weakness of the body, perhaps an increase in temperature are observed.

the jaw clicks when eatingTreatment of the disease depends on the nature and extent of the inflammatory process. The general recommendation for all cases will be to ensure maximum rest for the joint.

To do this, a special bandage is imposed for a few days, called sling (made individually for each patient), and a plate is placed between the teeth.

The patient should follow the diet, which includes only liquid food.

The further treatment is carried out under the supervision of a doctor, who may prescribe a course of anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, physiotherapy. As an aid physiotherapy and massage are assigned.

The most severe and advanced cases, when the disease moves to suppuration stage, a surgery is required. The operation is performed in a hospital. The subsequent treatment consists of a course of antibacterial drugs and physiotherapy.


The main condition for a smart prevention of diseases of the maxillofacial system is the attention to your own health.

The timely treatment of dental problems, high-quality prosthetics, a mandatory medical examination after the injury, the full and timely treatment of upper respiratory tract infections can help you avoid serious complications and make your life better.

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