Tele Oral Medicine

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Noises

Temperomandibular (TMJ) sounds can occur occasionally or be present at all times. The most common jaw joint noises include clicking, popping, crunching or clunking. Jaw joint noises may represent an underlying TMJ dysfunction such as disc displacement, subluxation or TMJ arthritis. TMJ noises can also be accompanied by jaw pain. 

Signs and Symptoms:

You may experience TMJ noises without any pain or limitation in your jaw function. However, you also may notice:

  • Jaw clicking, catching and locking in one or both joints when opening or closing. 
  • Jaw making cracking sounds with pain when opening or closing. 
  • Jaw clunking with pain when opening or closing. 
  • Stiffness when opening or closing, especially in front of the ears. 
  • Shifting of the jaw to one side when opening. 
  • Dull ache of the jaw muscles. 


Jaw noise is typically caused by the TMJ disc (cartilage) shifting position. It can also be caused by the TMJ being hypermobile and partially slipping out of the socket.  

This can be caused by:

  • Diminishing or shifting of the disc from its original place.  
  • Arthritic damage to the cartilage.  
  • Injury in the joint due to trauma or whiplash. 

Risk Factors:

Jaw Locking:

The primary risk for TMJ disc displacement is a closed locked jaw and you may experience inability to open your mouth normally. In cases of hypermobility of the TMJs the jaw may lock open.  

Factors that may increase the noises caused by TMJ also include:

  • TMJ Arthritis.
  • Jaw trauma or injury.  
  • Persistent teeth clenching and grinding. 
  • Hypermobility disorder. 


Painful TMJ clicking with catching or locking will likely require treatment. The treatment is typically non-surgical and you are likely to see improvement in your jaw pain and dysfunction. Surgery is rarely required however, in some cases it is necessary.  

When to see a doctor?

If the TMJ clicking is painful or associated with catching or locking, it is best to visit your dentist or doctor for treatment.  


To consult an Oral Medicine Specialist regarding your TMJ clicking, ask your doctor or dentist to refer you to TeleOralMedicine. 

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