Why Does My Jaw Pop When I Chew?

 Why Does My Jaw Pop When I Chew?

When you think of joints or joint pain, chances are you think of joints in your hip, knee, or fingers. But did you know that the human body has about 350 joints and that the most complex joint is located in your mouth? The temporomandibular joint, or jaw joint, sets itself apart from other joints by facilitating movement.

If you count yourself among the more than 10 million Americans who have an issue with the temporomandibular joint, you can attest that finding relief from pain and dysfunction for a TMJ disorder is job #1. In this blog, Jose Marcano, DMD at Orlando Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, unpacks this often under-diagnosed condition and, more importantly, how treatments like laser dentistry can help. 

Temporomandibular joint explained

The temporomandibular joint, sometimes shortened to TMJ, is the two joints in front of each ear, which connects the mandible or lower jawbone to the two major bones in the skull on each side of the head. The muscles that make the joints move are attached to the mandible and facilitate movement in three directions: up and down, side-to-side, and forward and back.

The TMJ is the only joint in the human body that creates this type of synchronized movement. Its three-dimensional movement and synchronized nature make the temporomandibular joint the most complicated joint in the body. When the TMJ is in tip-top shape, it enables you to execute key actions like chewing, yawning, speaking, and swallowing.

Problems with the temporomandibular joint or the muscles that control the jaw can disrupt healthy movement and function. This medical condition is called a temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ or TMD.

Typically, there is no single root cause for TMJ, which results from different factors or a combination of issues, such as trauma to the jaw, anxiety, and teeth grinding. The process for diagnosing TMJ includes a thorough physical exam, checking the range of motion of the jaw, locating key areas of pain, and X-rays. 

Common TMJ symptoms 

TMJ manifests differently from patient to patient, which makes diagnosing TMJ particularly challenging. Some patients describe the pain as radiating from the jaw, or within the face and neck muscles. For other patients, the pain is more of a headache radiating from behind their eyes.

Some of the more common symptoms include:

Laser dentistry can help

Here at Orlando Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, we help our patients suffering from TMJ with laser dentistry. While you may be more familiar with lasers being used as a cutting tool in surgical procedures, laser technology is a highly versatile tool. Dr. Marcano harnesses laser energy to treat a variety of issues like TMJ, cavities, gum disease, and sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea.

 In the case of TMJ, laser dentistry has some distinct advantages, especially when it comes to precision and pain relief. Specifically, laser energy can penetrate deep into the treatment area to target affected muscles and ligaments. A specially trained dentist like Dr. Marcano uses a hand-held laser device, which emits highly targeted light energy that can be applied to hard and soft tissue. 

 Here at Orlando Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, we use the Waterlase™ by Biolase® system, which combines laser energy and air and water throughout procedures. The air and water combination enhances comfort for the patient by protecting them from the heat of the laser throughout the procedure.  

Treatment with less inflammation

One of the great things about using laser energy to treat TMJ is that light energy provides a gentle approach to complete procedures with more precision and less inflammation. Clinical research in the use of laser dentistry to treat TMJ reports that patients may experience an enhanced range of motion in the jaw with less pain and swelling.

Non-invasive with no downtime 

As if increased movement and less pain and inflammation weren’t enough, laser dentistry for TMJ treatment is noninvasive, so you don’t have to worry about missing work or side effects. Typically, patients report no discomfort during the treatment and can get back to their normal routine after treatment. Recent research also suggests that TMJ laser treatment may boost tissue repair and natural healing.

If you hear a popping sound when you chew and want to learn more about TMJ, contact us at Orlando Center For Cosmetic Dentistry to schedule a consultation. Click the online booking tool or call or text the office today.  

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