Clicking in the jaw joint is very common. It happens to about 1 in 5 people. It is a result of a slipped disc in the joint. As others have mentioned it can be a symptom of bruxism. It can also be a result of trauma or just irregular bone shape (morphology).
If it is new, it would be advisable to see a dentist for assessment to check if you are grinding your teeth. If so, a splint can help to control symptoms and protect from damage. A splint is a bite guard you wear in your sleep. Some people clench and grind daytime, in which case, changing habits is the key factor. Some do both.
Other symptoms of bruxism include headaches, neck/shoulder pain/tension, jaw muscle tension, difficulty opening, difficulty closing or locking of the jaw. The risk factors for grinding include stress, difficulty sleeping, breathing difficulties and malocclusion (bad bite).
If the clicking has been happening all your life, with no other symptoms and no damage due to bruxism, it is likely due to a past trauma you simply have forgotten. Assuming it never gets worse, no treatment may be needed. You should avoid very hard chewy things like toffees or minties (teeth killers). Excessive chewing gum is also bad for the joint.
Sometimes surgical treatment is needed in severe cases, but as the jaw joint is the most complex in the body, with milder symptoms, it is best managed more conservatively.
Dr Frank Farrelly
Darlinghurst Dental, 30 Burton St, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
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