Why Does Your Jaw Pop And How To Fix It

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

Jaw popping and clicking are very common and can be painful at times. If you’re experiencing mild pain or your jaw rarely pops, there’s likely no need to worry. However, if the issues increase over time, you should consult a doctor. 

The main causes of jaw popping are TMJ disorders. Other medical issues such as arthritis, a broken or dislocated jaw, mouth infection or tumors, jaw infection, and sleeping disorders can also result in jaw popping. Jaw popping can be addressed with medical treatment and/or at-home remedies.  

Let’s take a closer look at the causes of jaw popping in detail, medical treatments to resolve the problem, and home remedies that may help.  

What Causes Your Jaw to Pop? 

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The main cause of your jaw-popping problem is the malfunctioning of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). These joints connect your jawbone to your skull, and you’ll experience a popping sensation when the ligaments in the joints give way. 

If you have weak temporomandibular joints, you probably suffer from a TMJ disorder, which causes pain in the jaw or cheekbone. Other symptoms of TMJ disorders include headaches, pain in facial muscles, or pain in your jaw. 

Fortunately, TMJ isn’t considered a major problem; the symptoms are usually dormant, or you may experience mild symptoms. If your jaw pops occasionally and the pain is mild, there’s no need for concern. 

However, if the jaw-popping effect causes severe pain and your jaw pops out often, it’s a sign that your TMJ symptoms have become severe. Often, the best way forward is to diagnose the cause of your TMJ disorder. 


Since TMJ, also known as TMD or TMJD, is the most probable cause behind your jaw popping, it’s helpful to know what causes TMJ and how to diagnose it. TMJ occurs when the joint between your jaw and skull malfunctions. 

Symptoms of TMJ include: 

  • Headaches
  • Mild to Severe Jaw Pain
  • Swelling in the facial muscles or jaw 
  • Jaw popping

While TMJ is considered a disorder, it’s usually caused by an underlying medical condition such as arthritis, illness, or dental malocclusion. Consuming sour foods, jaw injuries, and insomnia can accelerate TMJ symptoms. Grinding your teeth regularly can also worsen your jaw pain. 

When treating TMJ, you’ll have to treat the underlying medical condition. If you suffer from arthritis, for example, consuming calcium-rich foods may reduce the intensity of the TMJ symptoms. Similarly, if you have a recent jaw injury, then the TMJ symptoms should subside when your jaw heals. 

Unfortunately, you may not always be able to treat TMJ disorders or their underlying causes. At best, you may manage them better to reduce the pain and frequency of jaw popping. 

Other Causes Behind Jaw Popping 

Arthritis, a broken or dislocated jaw, and misaligned teeth may also cause your jaw to pop. If you have a jaw or mouth infection, a tumor, or even a sleep disorder, your jaw is at a higher risk of popping. 

How often your jaw pops will depend on whether the issue directly affects the jaw. A dislocated or injured jaw is more likely to pop, and the pain will also be more severe than if your jaw pops once in a blue moon due to a lack of sleep. 

Let’s look at other causes of jaw popping: 


Arthritis is a disorder that affects the bones and joints and may also cause problems in the temporomandibular joint of your jaw. Arthritis may reduce the cartilage that connects the jaw to your skull, and this increases the risk of jaw popping. 

You may also experience stiffness and occasional pain in your jaw and other joints if you have arthritis.

While arthritis may be difficult to cure completely, you can reduce the frequency of jaw popping by following a proper treatment plan. 

Misaligned Teeth 

Misaligned teeth may also cause your jaw to pop since the irregular tooth alignment places more pressure on the connecting joint. If you suffer from an overbite or underbite, it may be the reason why your jaw pops.

Not everyone with tooth misalignment problems will suffer from jaw-popping problems. If there’s a slight tooth misalignment that doesn’t really affect your mouth’s functions or cause jaw pain, you don’t need to treat it. 

However, if you suffer from severe teeth misalignment that causes your jaw to pop or causes wear and tear on your teeth, you’ll need to visit a dentist for treatment. There is a good chance braces will alleviate your TMJ symptoms.

Broken Jaw 

A broken or dislocated jaw may also pop out, and the pain will usually be worse in such cases. A broken jaw means that there’s a fracture in the jaw bone, while a dislocated jaw is due to the lower part of the jaw detaching from the normal portion.

If you’ve suffered a bad fall, road accident, or other physical trauma, then you might have a broken jaw. The only way to heal this problem is immediate medical treatment. 

A dislocated jaw can also cause jaw popping or clicking. If you experience drooling and difficulty while talking or eating and find it difficult to move your mouth, you may have a dislocated jaw that needs medical attention immediately. 

Jaw or Mouth Infection 

If you have any dental issues like cavities or tooth decay, it can also cause jaw popping. If oral health issues are left unchecked, they can result in a severe mouth infection, which is a cause of jaw clicking.

Infection of the glands in the mouth can also result in TMJ issues. Any sort of infection in the salivary, parotid, submandibular, or sublingual gland can cause your jaw to pop constantly. If you experience pain while opening your mouth, then a mouth infection may be to blame. 

Other infections, like pus inside the mouth or dry mouth, can also cause constant jaw popping. 

Mouth Tumors 

Tumors can grow anywhere inside the mouth, including lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, etc. Some tumors develop in areas that directly affect the jaw and result in a popping or clicking sound. 

Symptoms of a mouth tumor include:

  • Extreme ear pain
  • Aching lips
  • Sore mouth
  • Teeth loss
  • A mass growing rapidly inside the mouth

Some tumors can be cancerous, so if you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

Sleeping Disorders 

If you wake up at night with a jolt to catch your breath, you’re likely suffering from a sleeping disorder. This sleeping disorder is connected to the TMJ disorder and can cause pain in your jaw at night.   

Disturbed sleeping results in jaw popping because the brain detects the limited flow of oxygen and solves the problem by clenching jaw muscles. If this happens constantly, it causes wear and tear of jaw muscles and subsequent jaw pain. 

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Headaches
  • Irregular jaw movements
  • Difficulty in swallowing and eating 
  • Daytime sleepiness or restlessness 

If you notice any of these symptoms, consult a doctor; sleeping disorders like sleep apnea won’t vanish over time, and they require proper medical treatment. 

Are There Treatments for Jaw Popping?  

The treatment of jaw popping depends on its diagnosis. If the problem is severe and you have other medical conditions, your doctor might suggest surgery, medicine, or other treatments.

Medical treatments for severe jaw popping include:

  • Medications for relaxing your muscles
  • Injections to relieve pain
  • Ultrasound
  • Radio wave therapy 
  • Surgery

Your doctor may suggest surgery only if other medical treatments fail to solve the underlying problem. 

At-Home Remedies  

A girl attaches a medical bag with cold to the swelling on her cheek after removing a wisdom tooth

If your jaw popping isn’t a symptom of a serious medical condition, then your doctor might suggest at-home remedies. 

At-home remedies for jaw popping include:

  • Heat or ice packs to relax your muscles and reduce soreness
  • Mouth exercises to alleviate the pain around jaw muscles and TMJ joints
  • Avoiding crunchy food and eating softer foods
  • Relaxing your jaw with a massage

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