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FAQ:  Jaw Clicking


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Question:
My 18 year old daughter had all of her wisdom teeth removed at one time back in January. About 2 weeks after the removal, she started having problems on the right side with her jaw clicking and popping and locking up on her.

This constant problem also with alot of pain wakes her up in the middle of the night and also causes her to have difficulty in the morning opening or closing her mouth all the way without it popping or locking up on her. I took her to the dentist who took an xray and said that she had a bad case of TMJ, she had never had this problem before. He suggested that she see a TMJ specialist, but she is on medicaid and there is no one that takes the medicaid.

I recently took her to see an orthodontist who said that she would need to see a specialist because she would require some kind of mouth splint he said to correct the problem, although I was told by her primary care doctor that putting the braces back on would take care of the problem.

I don't know what to do to relieve her pain and discomfort, the orthodontist will not put the braces back on until she sees a specialist. ... Visitor from FL

Answer:
TMJ stands for temporal-mandibular joint. This is the joint that allows the lower jaw to move. It has two bones which move against each other as well as a disc that cushions the two bones from rubbing too hard against each other.

The pain in the joint is coming from inflamation due to some form of trauma in the joint (most likely from having the jaw either/or strecthed or opened too long during the wisdom teeth surgery). This is a normal consequence and will often resolve itself in time.

A question is, when is the locking occurring along with the clicking?

Locking and clicking which occurs early in the jaw movment (a closed lock and the person is having difficulty opening the jaw) is often caused by the disc being out of place (often the disc has moved forward and to the middle of the face) and can be helped with a bite splint which will decompress the joint, allowing more space in the joint and thus allowing the disc to slide back into position.

If the clicking and the locking is at the end of the opening (open lock and the person is having trouble closing the jaw), then the jaw is dislocating and moving past a bump called the articular eminence. This can be caused by the joint being stretched and is now able to move farther than before. The muscle which moves the jaw will get tight and the noise will increase because the bones are being pushed harder together by the tight muscles. A bite splint will often not direclty help this condition, however may be indicated to relax the muscles.

See a dentist who has some training in this condition and ask if some Advil type products will help. It is often better to treate this sooner than later, but only with conservative therapy.

Editorial Staff

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