The jaw will “click” or “pop” when the ligaments that hold the disk in place become stretched or torn thereby allowing the disk to slip forward (and usually either medially or laterally). As the mouth opens the lower jawbone begins to slide forward and this causes the disk to “click” or “pop”.
The jaw will usually curve or deviate to the affected side during mouth opening. Pain can vary from none to severe. Often the musculature of the jaw and neck will tighten up leading to headaches, facial pain and neck pain. As the condition worsens patients will typically notice a “catching” sensation where they have to shift their jaw to open or close normally.
Patients will also at times notice a feeling of their bite shifting and feeling off. If this is left untreated it will often progress to jaw locking and degenerative changes. Treatment will typically consist of medications, jaw exercises, manual jaw manipulation, oral appliance therapy, and in a minority of cases (approximately 5%) minimally invasive TMJ arthroscopy. Referrals to physical therapy, massage therapy, osteopathic and chiropractic therapy may also be given to address cervical disorders.