Read below about jaw clicking, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your jaw clicking from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Jaw Clicking Symptoms

While chewing or speaking you may begin to notice an off-and-on clicking or popping sound that seems to be coming from inside your head, at a point just in front of or just above your ear. This is in your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, which is the hinged joint that connects your upper and lower jaws.

The clicking may seem to be a harmless, though annoying, symptom, and is often painless. But a clicking jaw is almost always a sign of some misalignment of your teeth, your jawbones, or your jaw muscles, and should be investigated by a medical provider so that the underlying cause can be treated before it might get any worse. Jaw clicking is a type of temporomandibular disorder, or TMD [1].



  • Sometimes TMD will resolve on its own, especially if you make an effort to manage your stress and control habits like grinding your teeth.
  • But in many cases, the symptoms continue or even get worse as time passes.

Is jaw clicking serious?

  • If there is no pain associated with the clicking, you might not need to see a medical provider.
  • But if there is pain or discomfort, or the simple annoyance of the clicking is reason enough, your medical provider can certainly help and refer you to a specialist if necessary.

Jaw Clicking Causes Overview

Many conditions can have jaw clicking as a symptom. The most common are those causing severe strain and tension in the muscles of the head and neck, although misalignment of the jawbones may have the same symptom.

Muscular causes:

This means anything that strains and overworks the muscles of the jaw until they don't work together smoothly any longer. The result is an uneven stretching and retracting of the muscles. You hear this unevenness as a click, since it occurs in the jaw's hinge joint right at your ears.

Dental causes:

  • Teeth grinding : Constantly, and subconsciously, grinding or clenching the teeth can overwork the jaw muscles.
  • Malocclusion of the teeth: If the teeth do not meet correctly, and you have a bite that is off-center, this can cause an uneven strain on some of the jaw muscles [2].
  • Dentures: If dentures don't fit properly they can lead to malocclusion.

Skeletal causes:

  • Misalignment of the jaw bones: This may cause a click when you try to open or close your mouth, which forces the uneven hinge joint to work.
  • Congenital misalignment: This means you have some inherited deformity of your jawbones which prevents them from lining up properly and, therefore, opening and closing smoothly.
  • Injury: If your jaw is broken or dislocated through an injury, it may be left misaligned and clicking even after it seems to have healed.
  • Disease: Some degenerative bone and connective tissue disorders can damage the alignment of your jaw's hinge joint [3].

Psychological causes:

  • Stress: This can cause great tension in the cheeks and jaws, also overworking these muscles.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Jaw Clicking

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced jaw clicking. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Temporomandibular Joint (Tmj) Dysfunction Disorder

    The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located in front of the ear, and it connects the jaw to the side of the head. Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a painful condition which can be caused by excess tension in jaw mucles, faulty alignment between upper and lower teeth, arthritis in the joint, or injury of the jaw or face.

    Outcome is highly case-dependent.

    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw, history of headaches, jaw pain, pain in the back of the neck
    Symptoms that always occur with temporomandibular joint (tmj) dysfunction disorder:
    pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Primary care doctor

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  3. 3.Dislocation of the Jaw

    A jaw dislocation is when the bones of the mandible (lower jaw) come unhinged from the bones of the side of the head.

    Good prognosis after putting the jaw back in, but it can become chronic and may require surgery

    Top Symptoms:
    jaw pain from an injury, locking or dislocating jaw
    Symptoms that always occur with dislocation of the jaw:
    jaw pain from an injury
    Hospital emergency room
  4. 4.Myofascial Pain Syndrome

    Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic musculoskeletal syndrome caused by trigger points within muscle. Pressure on these points causes pain in the area around the point as well as in other body parts, a phenomenon known as referred pain.

    Resolution of pain is dependent on type of treatment.

    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain in the back of the neck, tender muscle knot, general numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with myofascial pain syndrome:
    tender muscle knot
    Primary care doctor

Jaw Clicking Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if your jaw is clicking after you've suffered a blow to the head or face through a fall, an automobile accident, or some other injury.

Schedule an appointment with

  • Your dentist, if you believe you have a malocclusion (a bite that is off-center).
  • Your regular medical provider, if you believe you have a misalignment of the jaw. This could have been present from birth or may be due to a prior injury. Your provider can also arrange for physical therapy to help correct the TMD.
  • A psychologist or other counselor, for help with stress management and easing tension.

Remedies that you can try at home

  • Making lifestyle changes to improve diet, exercise, and sleep habits, which can all help to reduce stress.
  • Making a conscious effort to stop grinding your teeth. An inexpensive mouth guard, available over-the-counter in drug stores, is helpful to some patients.
  • Using hot or cold packs on the painful areas of the TMJ.
  • Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.

FAQs About Jaw Clicking

Here are some frequently asked questions about jaw clicking.

Can stress cause jaw clicking?

No, jaw clicking is most commonly caused by swelling of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It can frequently be treated with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen. It is not caused directly by stress [4]. Jaw clicking can, however, be caused by chronic teeth grinding which can cause inflammation of the temporomandibular joint.

What does it mean when your jaw clicks all the time?

It may mean that you have a disorder of your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Common disorders include temporomandibular joint dysfunction or temporomandibular joint dislocation. Dysfunction is most commonly inflammation of the joint due to an infection or teeth grinding. Infections may occur following an ear infection and teeth grinding, especially nighttime grinding, may be due to stress.

Why is my jaw clicking when I eat?

Your jaw may be clicking when you eat because as you eat you use your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The swelling increases the pressure in the joint which escapes as the joint is stretched, causing a clicking noise. This clicking may be because of how your jaw sits and has developed or it may be a sign of inflammation.

Why does my jaw clicking cause a headache?

Jaw clicking is associated with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which may also cause a headache [5]. Usually they are one-sided but can affect both sides of the head. If you grind your teeth at night headaches may occur in the morning.

Why does your jaw pop when you yawn?

Your jaw pops when you yawn because you are stretching your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). As the joint stretches, it allows carbon dioxide or nitrogen that is dissolved in the joint fluid or synovial fluid to expand, causing a clicking sound as that gas escapes the joint capsule. Usually this is a painless clicking or popping sensation.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Jaw Clicking

  • Q.Has your dentist or significant other ever told you that you grind your teeth in your sleep?
  • Q.Do you hear a ringing or whistling sound no one else hears?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Q.About your ear, do you feel a warm or fluid sensation in your ear?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our jaw clicking symptom checker to find out more.

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Jaw Clicking Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced jaw clicking have also experienced:

    • 11% Jaw Pain
    • 4% Jaw Stiffness
    • 3% Moderate Jaw Pain
  • People who have experienced jaw clicking had symptoms persist for:

    • 28% Over a Month
    • 27% Less Than a Day
    • 27% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced jaw clicking were most often matched with:

    • 50% Dislocation of the Jaw
    • 25% Temporomandibular Joint (Tmj) Dysfunction Disorder
    • 25% Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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  1. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated June 8, 2018. MedlinePlus Link.
  2. Fotek I, eds. Malocclusion of teeth. Penn State Hershey: Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Updated February 5, 2018. Penn Hershey Link.
  3. Kalladka M, Quek S, Heir G, Eliav E, Mupparapu M, Viswanath A. Temporomandibular joint osteoarthritis: Diagnosis and long-term conservative management: A topic review. J Indian Prosthodont Soc. 2013;14(1):6-15. NCBI Link.
  4. Sutin AR, Terracciano A, Ferrucci L, Costa PT. Teeth grinding: Is emotional stability related to bruxism?. J Res Pers. 2010;44(3):402-5. NCBI Link.
  5. TMJ and MPD. National Headache Foundation. National Headache Foundation Link.