A Popping Jaw Needs Attention

In fact, any sounds coming from the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are warnings that something is wrong. Popping, clicking or sandy sounds when you chew or move your mouth indicate that the discs are not functioning correctly as the joints move. A sandy or gravely sound may indicate that there is bone on bone contact due to a displaced disc, a worn-down disc, or a hole in the disc. Long term disc dysfunction often leads to permanent degenerative changes to the joints, causing painful arthritis, limiting the ability to talk or eat.

It is amazing to me when I hear a patient say that the pain and clicking has been there for years, but “lately it started to hurt more.” Or, “I have been hearing the sounds off and on over the years, but the other day I was yawning and my jaw got stuck and now my back teeth don’t fit together the same.” These are issues that should have been addressed immediately. It’s even worse when the jaw gets stuck and a trip to the emergency room is necessary to put the jaw back into the correct position.

Ideally, the discs should always travel with the condylar heads and reside within well lubricated capsules. They are drawn forward by a muscle and retract back using elastic ligaments. Opening too widely such as when yawning, singing, eating a fat sandwich or due to traumatic force can over-stretch or even tear the elastic ligament and/or the muscle attachment. One of my patients had trauma caused by a snowball to the side of the face.

Treating soon after the start of the problem, in most cases, is quite simple and successful. Letting it go on for months or years can lead to months or years of treatment and possible surgery, not to mention the intense pain of a locked jaw or severely limited ability to open the mouth enough to eat. Catching it early can help the discs relocate and hopefully avoid permanent remodeling to the joints from long term dysfunction. Just like any other disease, neglect can result in a compromised prognosis requiring a much more complex treatment and an inability to solve the problem completely.

In my practice I have developed a custom fitting orthotic device that “unloads” the joints, often allowing the discs to relocate, heal and once again function normally. It is made here in office, not sent out to a lab. Due to the greatly increased force experienced during clenching or grinding your teeth while asleep, such a device can bring immediate relief from what can be severe pain. Needless to say, if the patient had come in when the first symptoms started, so much could have been avoided.

At AODTC (Advanced Oral Diagnosis and Treatment Center) we pride ourselves on the avoidance of medication use. For years it has been well established in alternative medicine that dietary changes can arrest arthritis and certain supplements can outperform many currently popular pain remedies without the harmful side effects.

Many of our patients are not only helped with their jaw problems, but leave with a much more healthy life.
If I were like most men of my age, I would have retired years ago, but the joy of bringing health and happiness back to my patients keeps me working.

For more information about AODTC please visit: www.aodtc.com.