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FAQ:  Jaw Popping

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Jaw cracking: I've got a bad habit that I can't seem to shake: I crack my jaw.

It started about a year ago and I'm trying desperately to stop. I don't do it because I want to, I find myself doing it subconsciously because my jaw feels like it needs to crack. It only cracks on the right side.

I'm worried that I'm doing damage to my joint and could be looking at TMJ or some other problem in the future. I'm also worried that it is affecting my ear as the cracking is right next to it and sometimes my ear feels weird after I've been cracking my jaw all night.

More importantly, how can I stop? I know this can't be healthy. ... Visitor from MA

You are correct in that your habit of cracking your jaw every night or subconsciously during the day can lead to a wearing down of the thin protective membrane between where the lower jaw functions against the skull. The Temporo-mandibular-joint (TMJ) area is located next to your ears and is the reason why you are hearing the cracking of your jaw so loudly.

You can feel this joint if you put your little fingers into your ears and move your lower jaw side to side, or open real wide.

The major problem of wearing through this thin articular disc is that it will cause soreness and pain, and if it perforates right through you will have a bone against bone situation which will be very uncomfotable. If this happens TMJ surgery may be required to repair the ruptured disc.

One thing that may help your nocturnal jaw cracking is the fabrication and nightly wearing of a sleep apnea/anti-snore appliance that would hold your jaw forward preventing you from subconsciously cracking your jaw.

One such appliance is called a TAP T or TAP 1 appliance made by Glidewell Dental Lab in California. The added benefit of wearing the TAP appliance at night besides quelling your jaw habit is the you will not snore, grind your teeth together (bruxism) and will get a better, more restful nights sleep.

I recommend that you get a consult with an Oral Surgery Group in your area to evaluate the condition of your TMJ's.

Editorial Staff

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