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The jaw joint complex of the teeth, muscles and joints – The jaw joints aspect – Part 2 – The sounds

July 30, 2018

Joint sounds are essentially the noise created between the padding (articular disc) in the joint space and the linings covering the bones that form the joint space.

Many people experience a click or popping sound. Others, a grinding sound called crepitus. We do not always know why a sound has developed, nor do we always need to do treatment to stop a sound occurring. In the past many invasive treatments have been carried out in some patients, while, in other patients over time, the sound went away without surgical procedures.

Xrays of Jaw joint in closed position and joint in maximum open position
More women than men are affected, however, anyone of any age or gender can experience jaw popping.

The underlying principle is that the body can adapt to changes to itself. Our role, as health practitioners, is to allow the body to adapt and heal. If you can’t heal or adapt then it’s very difficult to treat you. In an “instant” world, time can be our friend.

What makes the Jaw Joint Sound

Click or popping sound

This is when the articular disc that sits like a “jockey’s cap” on the condyle of the mandibular bone, moves more than normal on movement of the lower jaw. Remember it’s the lower jaw that moves NOT the upper jaw which is fixed to the rest of the skull. As the lower jaw opens it initially is like a ball and socket, or hinge movement. Then it moves down a slope of the upper jaw to end normally at the articular eminence, where maximum opening occurs. This allows the jaw move to forward and down. However, the more mobile padding can get in the way of movement and lead to:

The articular disc then springs when there is a jaw movement that releases it to sit back on the head of the condyle, with a click or popping sound.

Crepitus

This sounds like grating or grinding, even a squishing sound to the ear. This can indicate the disc is over worked and may be breaking down.

 

Nail biting

Causes

Behaviours:

  • Grinding the teeth
  • Chewing gum regularly or excessively
  • Nail-biting
  • Clenching the jaw
  • Biting the inside of the cheek or lip

As a general rule, if there is no pain associated with a click or popping sound, then there is no cause for concern other than regular monitoring. However any habit or possible causes of this sound should be discouraged or treated.

A crepitus sound is more of a concern as it can indicate a breakdown of the articular disc.
Jaw movements - closed and open in normal, clicking and locking

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The jaw joint complex of the teeth, muscles and joints – The jaw joints aspect – Part 3 – The Sounds - Medical Causes