Why does my jaw make a grinding sound when I open my mouth?

When I open my mouth wide I here like a grinding sound, almost like sand between rocks. I used to get really bad lockjaw and if I chew gum it bothers me. I have some pain and the grinding is annoying. It also feels almost like my jaw is somewhat dislocated. Its grinding is mostly on the right side. Anyone have any idea what this might be and if so any recommendations on what I can do? I’ve been dealing with this for years and just hoped it would go away with time.


Dear Emily,

It sounds like you may have a condition known as Temporomandibular Disorder also called TMJ or TMD. When the tissue gets damaged around the jaw joints, a grinding sound can be heard when opening and closing the jaw, this is known as Crepitius. The disorder is most commonly caused by abnormal structure of the cranium and lower jaw. A poor bite can also affect your jaw joints, however other factors like stress, grinding or clenching of the teeth aggravate the joints even further adding pain. To help ease pain do not chew gum, try not to clench your teeth, use moist heat on joints for 20 minutes a day, as well as exercising the joints by opening your mouth as wide as you can, hold for 10 seconds and repeat this about 10 times once a day before going to bed.

There is no such thing as a TMJ specialist, therefore it is highly recommended that you see a dentist that has extra training and continuing education in TMJ Disorder. If you do have TMJ, most likely the dentist will make you a mouth appliance to wear to prevent further damage from happening to the joints and ease the pain. The longer you postpone not treating this disorder the more damage is done to the jaw joints.  We hope this helps.

This blog post created for Baton Rouge dentist Dr. Perry.

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