Jaw cracking refers to a clicking or snapping sound in your jaw. Its also known as jaw popping.
Often, the sound occurs with jaw pain and discomfort. You might also have a hard time moving your jaw, depending on the underlying condition.
Jaw cracking usually isnt a cause for concern, though. It can even happen when you widely yawn or open your mouth.
The exception is if you recently sustained a facial injury, which can dislocate or break your jaw. In this case, youll need emergency help.
Read on to learn about the possible causes of jaw cracking and when you should see a doctor.
The potential causes of jaw cracking range in severity and type. They include:
Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) attaches your jawbone to your skull. If theres something wrong with this joint, its called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
TMD can make your jaw crack or pop. Other symptoms include:
TMD often happens without a specific cause. Occasionally, clenching your teeth due to emotional stress can play a role.
Arthritis occurs when your joints become damaged and inflamed. If it affects your TMJ, it can cause TMD and jaw cracking.
All types of arthritis can lead to TMD. Most cases are due to osteoarthritis, but it can also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis also causes symptoms in other parts of your body, including:
Facial injuries can dislocate or break your jaw. A dislocation happens when your jawbone moves out of place, while a broken jaw happens when your jawbone breaks.
Common causes of facial injury include:
A dislocated or broken jaw can lead to TMD symptoms, including jaw pain and cracking.
Other symptoms of dislocation include:
If your jaw is broken, youll likely have:
Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) causes pain in your muscles and fascia. Fascia is the sheet of connective tissue that covers every muscle.
MPS can affect any muscle, including those in your jaw, neck, and shoulder. Its the most common cause of TMJ discomfort.
You may have jaw cracking and popping, along with:
If your breathing briefly and repeatedly stops during sleep, its called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This happens when the airways in your throat are too narrow.
OSA increases your chances of developing TMD. The connection is unclear, but its thought that the resistance in your airways triggers a stress response. This may cause your jaw muscles to clench together.
Other symptoms include:
Malocclusion of the teeth occurs when your upper and lower jaws are misaligned. It causes your upper and lower teeth to line up incorrectly.
There are several types of malocclusions, including:
The primary symptom is teeth misalignment, but you can also experience TMD and jaw noises.
Other symptoms include:
Jaw cracking and pain might indicate an infection in your:
Depending on the infection, you may also have:
Jaw infections are often mistaken for TMD. If your doctors treatment for TMD fails to work, be sure to let them know.
If a tumor develops in the oral cavity, it can lead to oral cancer. This may cause symptoms like:
The tumor can also affect how your jawbone moves, causing jaw noises like cracking or popping.
If you have jaw cracking while eating, you might have:
Jaw cracking when you yawn might indicate:
Potential causes of jaw cracking plus ear pain include:
Jaw cracking usually isnt serious. It typically goes away in 2 or 3 weeks. However, you should see a doctor if you have:
If you were recently injured, go to the nearest emergency room. Youll need immediate medical attention.
To stop jaw cracking, youll need to treat the underlying cause.
The following home remedies can be used alone or with medical treatment:
If your jaw cracking is due to a more serious condition, you may need medical treatment. This might include:
Cracking your jaw isnt necessarily harmful. It can happen if you open your mouth wide, like during a big yawn. This is expected and normal.
However, take note if your jaw cracks when you talk or chew. It may indicate a more serious issue, especially if you also have pain.
Try eating softer foods to decrease your jaw activity. If your symptoms persist, see a doctor.
If you have jaw cracking, pay attention to your other symptoms. This can help you determine what might be causing the sound. Be sure to visit a doctor if you have persistent pain, difficulty eating or breathing, or if the jaw cracking gets worse.
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Jaw Cracking Causes, Treatments, and When to See a Doctor - Healthline
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