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Popping jaw? Your jaw could be misaligned.

By February 19, 2024TMJ Disorder
medical illustration of a jaw bone

The human jaw (or temporomandibular joint) is truly an engineering marvel. This remarkable joint is in near-constant use, allowing us to perform essential tasks such as chewing, talking, and expressing emotions. However, if you’ve ever experienced a popping sound or discomfort in your jaw, it could be a sign that something is amiss. One common culprit for a popping jaw is a misaligned jaw.

Other common symptoms of misaligned jaws include trouble opening or shutting the mouth, difficulty chewing, and frequent facial pain or headaches. Are you experiencing any of these symptoms? If so, it’s important to address these issues as soon as possible. Treat a dysfunctional or popping jaw with Dr. Timothy E. Mickiewicz, D.D.S., in Sacramento, CA, today. Call (916) 469-9178 to request your appointment now.

In this blog post, we delve into the causes behind a popping jaw. Here, we explore the factors that contribute to jaw misalignments, effective treatment options, and preventive measures to keep your jaw in optimal working condition.

What causes a popping sound in my jaw?

A popping jaw isn’t just annoying – it could be a sign of something bigger at play. Indeed, the popping or clicking sound in your jaw is often due to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)

This joint forms a unique junction between the lower jaw (mandible) and the lateral bones of the skull (temporal bones). The union between the mandible and temporal bones forms a type of hinge joint that allows us to open and close our mouths.

The temporomandibular joint is key in helping us chew, speak, yawn, and laugh. But when there is an issue with this joint, such as a misalignment, it can result in that distinctive popping sound.

One common cause of TMJ-related popping is the displacement of the articular disc. This cartilaginous pad provides much-needed cushion to the temporomandibular joints. But when this disc moves out of its normal position, it can lead to friction between the bones. This friction is what causes a clicking or popping jaw, especially while chewing or speaking.

Factors Contributing to Jaw Misalignments

So, why are you experiencing a popping jaw? Well, several factors can contribute to the misalignment of the jaw, each playing a role in disrupting the delicate balance of the TMJ. Some of the primary factors include:

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Habitual teeth grinding, known as bruxism, may be one reason for a popping jaw. This condition can exert excessive force on the jaw joint, leading to misalignments over time.

Poor Posture

Incorrect posture, especially in the neck and upper back, can affect the alignment of the jaw, leading to a popping sound. If you notice yourself slouching or adopting a head-forward position, then these postures may be contributing to jaw misalignments.

Stress and Anxiety 

Emotional stress and anxiety can manifest physically, leading many to clench their jaw muscles unwittingly. This can cause chronic tension in the jaw, ultimately leading to misalignments.

Trauma or Injury 

Accidents or trauma to the face and jaw area can cause misalignments. Dislocation of the temporomandibular joint due to injury can result in long-term issues.

Dental Issues

When the upper and lower jaw do not work harmoniously, it can cause irregularities in the bite, such as an overbite or underbite. These irregularities not only cause potential dental damage, but they can also contribute to jaw misalignments. 

Treatment Options for Jaw Misalignments

If your jaw is misaligned, prompt treatment is key. Addressing a misaligned jaw involves a multi-faceted approach that may include a combination of self-care, professional intervention, and lifestyle adjustments. Here are some effective treatment options:

Self-Care and Home Remedies

Many people with a popping jaw want to try resolving the issue from the comfort of their homes. While these methods may not always be effective, they are a great place to start. Here are a few ideas:

  • Rest Your Jaw: Give your jaw a break by avoiding excessive chewing, especially hard or tough foods (we’re looking at you, beef jerky and caramels!).
  • Apply Heat or Ice: Alternating between heat and cold packs can help reduce inflammation and alleviate discomfort.
  • Gentle Jaw Exercises: Incorporate gentle jaw exercises to improve mobility and strengthen supporting muscles around the temporomandibular joint.

Professional Interventions

If home remedies do not work, the next step is professional intervention. Some common medical solutions may include:

  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can provide exercises to improve jaw mobility, correct posture, and strengthen surrounding muscles.
  • Orthodontic Treatment: In cases where dental issues contribute to misalignments, orthodontic interventions (such as braces) may be recommended.
  • Night Guards: If bruxism is a contributing factor, a dentist may suggest wearing a night guard or splint to protect the teeth and alleviate pressure on the jaw.


In addition to home remedies and professional interventions, patients may also explore medications, such as:

Surgical Options

In very severe cases, doctors and dentists may want to explore surgical options. While these options are usually a last resort, they may include procedures like: 

  • Arthrocentesis: This is a minimally invasive solution. The procedure involves using a sterile solution to flush the temporomandibular joint, thereby removing debris and reducing inflammation.
  • Joint Surgery: In some cases, jaw surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the TMJ.

Preventing Jaw Misalignments

While some factors contributing to jaw misalignments may be beyond our control, adopting certain habits and practices can help prevent issues from arising or worsening, such as:

Maintain Good Posture

Be mindful of your posture, especially when sitting or working for extended periods. Proper alignment of the spine can positively impact jaw alignment.

Manage Stress

Incorporating stress management techniques into your routine is a great way to diffuse jaw tension. We recommend meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to reduce pain and stress in the jaw.

Avoid Teeth Grinding

If you are prone to teeth grinding (especially at night), consider using a night guard or dental splint to protect your teeth and alleviate pressure on the jaw.

Stay Hydrated 

Dehydration can contribute to muscle tension and joint pain. So, stay adequately hydrated to support your overall muscle and joint health.

Regular Dental Check-ups 

Routine dental visits are important. These appointments can help identify and address dental issues that may contribute to jaw misalignments before they become major problems.

Popping jaw? Our dentist in Sacramento, CA, can help!

A popping jaw can be a source of discomfort and concern, but understanding the underlying causes and seeking appropriate treatment can make a significant difference. Get the care you need with Dr. Timothy E. Mickiewicz in Sacramento, CA, today. You can reach our dentist online here or at (916) 469-9178.