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Face and Jaw Surgery

Snapping jaw hinge

07/20/2007

Question:

I`m a healthy 47 year-old female. Starting suddenly about 2 months ago, for no apparent reason whatsoever, the right hinge of my jaws is making a snapping sound whenever I chew or otherwise move my lower jaw around. It is not associated with any pain or other physical discomfort, but it is extremely annoying, and it makes me self-conscious. What could be the problem?

Answer:

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or jaw joint is located just in front of each ear, where the lower jawbone (mandible) connects to the skull. This "ball and socket" joint allows the jaw to move up and down, from side to side, and in complex circular motions. TMJ function can be affected by disease, injury and general wear and tear. The jaw joint has a cartilage disc between the articulating surface of skull bone and the lower jawbone. This small piece of cartilage acts as padding between these bones (the disk) can wear or displace due to use. This disc can be displaced when the mouth is opened very wide, when there is injury or force to the jaw, and sometimes due to excessively hard food.

The snapping or popping noise is one of the most common symptoms of jaw joint. It occurs when the cartilage in your jaw joint is in the forward position, which causes the ball to rub against cartilage during opening and closing of mouth. In few, it may be associated with pain or discomfort. Most of the time the disc reduces back into its position after some physiologic remodeling of joint and does not require any treatment. The clicking and popping of a TMJ without associated symptoms is not an indication for any type of treatment, nor is it a predictor of future problems.

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Response by:

Likith V Reddy, MD, DDS, FACS Likith V Reddy, MD, DDS, FACS
Formerly:
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati