Jaw popping is a common symptom of TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder). Causes include trauma, stress and clenching your teeth. Treatments include lifestyle changes, home remedies, and nonsurgical or surgical approaches.
Jaw popping refers to a clicking or cracking sound when you speak, chew or yawn. It’s a common symptom of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, or TMD. People who develop jaw clicking as a symptom of TMD commonly have other symptoms, such as:
Jaw clicking can range from mild to severe, and it can affect one or both sides of your face. Depending on the severity of your condition, your healthcare provider may recommend home remedies, lifestyle changes, nonsurgical treatments or surgery.
There are two main ways your jaw can pop. It can happen when your mouth is open really wide (like when you yawn). This type of jaw clicking is normal and usually isn’t a cause for concern.
Jaw popping can also happen when you close your mouth, then open it again — like when you’re chewing or speaking. This type of jaw clicking occurs when the articular disk — the cartilage that cushions your jaw joint — slides in and out of place.
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Your jaw might click or pop if you have:
Healthcare providers treat a popping jaw a number of ways, including:
The treatment that’s right for you depends on the severity of your condition.
You may be able to improve mild jaw popping by avoiding or limiting harmful habits, such as:
If lifestyle changes alone don’t ease jaw popping and pain, your healthcare provider may recommend:
Mild to moderate jaw clicking may require prescription medication, such as:
You may need medical procedures to treat a popping jaw. Nonsurgical treatments include:
In severe cases, people may need surgery to correct a popping jaw. Surgical options may include:
Most of the time, jaw popping is a symptom of TMD. Left untreated, TMD can permanently damage your jaw, resulting in loss of cartilage and bone.
There’s not a lot you can do to prevent jaw popping from happening in the first place — especially if it’s a result of skeletal abnormalities. But to reduce your risk of jaw clicking as a result of teeth grinding, try training yourself to keep your teeth slightly apart unless you’re eating, swallowing or speaking. Keeping your jaw relaxed and at rest may help you avoid issues like TMD.
If your jaw pops when you yawn, it’s probably not concerning unless you have pain. But you should schedule an appointment with a dentist or your primary care physician (PCP) if:
If your jaw popped out of place, you should seek medical treatment right away. Never try to pop your jaw back into place on your own.
The outlook is usually good for people with popping jaws. Since jaw clicking is often a symptom of TMD, it typically goes away with treatment.
When your jaw clicks or pops, it’s usually a symptom of TMD. Disorders of your TMJ can occur on one or both sides of your face.
If your jaw only pops when you yawn or open your mouth really wide, it’s probably due to temporary overextension of your jaw. This usually isn’t a cause for concern, especially if there’s no pain.
Even though discomfort is a common symptom of TMD, it’s important to know that some people with jaw popping never develop pain. If you have popping jaws when eating or speaking, you should see a healthcare provider — even if you don’t have pain.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Jaw popping — or jaw clicking — is a common symptom of TMD. Most of the time, it’s a temporary issue that goes away with treatment. If you have jaws that click, talk to your healthcare provider. Treating the underlying issue can help stop jaw popping and ease associated pain.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/01/2023.
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