If you hear clicking, popping or grating sounds in your jaw, you may have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. More than 10 million people in the United States suffer from it and about 90 percent are women in their childbearing years, says the TMJ Association. The temporomandibular joints sit in front of your ears. They connect the lower jaw bone, or mandible, to the skull, and allow the jaw to move up and down, forward and back and side to side.
Not everyone with TMJ has a noisy jaw. You may instead have ear and jaw pain; be unable to open your mouth comfortably; have a bite that feels uncomfortable or “off”; have swelling on the side of the face; or have headaches or neck, shoulder and back pain. No standard test can correctly identify TMJ, so your healthcare provider may need to take a detailed medical history, understand all your symptoms and do a physical examination of your head, neck, face and jaw. To ease the ache, try eating soft foods, applying ice or moist heat and avoiding jaw movements that may cause pain such as wide yawning, loud singing and gum chewing.