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TMJ Dysfunction: Why Does My Jaw Click?

It happens time and time again, your jaw pops or clicks! What is that and why does it keep happening? 

The temporomandibular joint (or TMJ for short) is the joint that opens and closes our mouth and moves it side to side.  This is critical in talking and eating. 

Muscles of the TMJ

Like all joints, we have muscles that act on the TMJ to make it move:

  • Lateral pterygoid 
  • Frontalis 
  • Temporalis 
  • Masseter 

                                         TMJ Symptoms | TMJ Treatment | Dr. Jeff Berger Sonora Dentist


Clicking jaw, not cracking your knuckles

When these muscles become tight (such as with stress "clenching") they can pull on the jaw causing it to shift to the side instead of opening and closing smoothly. The disc of the joint dislocates out of place.  The pop you feel is different from the pop you feel in your fingers when you crack your knuckles. The joint is actually shifting out of alignment. If you put your fingers just under your ear, and then open/close the mouth you can feel it. 


                                   Woman massaging her cheek against white background

You probably notice some accompanying tenderness and pain with the clicking as well. That pain can make it difficult to eat/drink and talk. Sometimes the jaw may get "locked" and have difficulty opening or closing. 

Did you know physical therapists can treat your TMJ disorder? It's made up of muscles and joints like any other area in our body. 

Your jaw clicks, now what?

Ideally, we would want to get you into our clinic for an assessment of the TMJ and the neck. We can evaluate the clicking further (like which direction it goes in), and how tight the different muscles are. Getting those muscles less tight is the first step in making your jaw feel better and decreasing the clicking. 

How do we make the muscles less tight? 

Manual therapy is an excellent treatment comprised of various tricks and tools to help calm down that irritated muscle tissue. Our goal is always less pain and less clicking after treatment.  


If your jaw is clicking, it's time to come see us! Contact our office today.