Clicking noises from the mouth at night are extremely common as a symptom that usually arises from one of a few possible conditions. All of these conditions eventually cause an increased strain on the Temporo-mandibular Joint (TMJ), something that usually has long-term repercussions leading to chronic situations.
2. Anatomical irregularity
Commonly called a night grinding, the origins and exact etiology of this condition are still unknown. The patient unconsciously grinds the teeth at night and does not allow the muscles supporting the jaw and the TMJ to get adequate rest.
Over a period of time, this strain takes a toll on the supporting structures and causes the lower jaw to almost snap out of position and cause a clicking noise.
Disturbances in occlusion and stress are linked to Bruxism, however it is not known if there are other factors responsible for its occurrence. The mere presence of non-ideal occlusion or stress does not mean that a person will develop Bruxism.
The TMJ is a complex joint that is delicately balanced between a number of bones, ligaments and muscles. There may be developmental disturbances in either factor, resulting in imperfect jaw function.
This can manifest in the form of a clicking noise, jaw deviation on opening and closing of the mouth, or absolutely nothing at all.
Unless the patient has severe pain or discomfort, this is just left to its own devices.
Physical trauma as suffered commonly after a fall or a blow can result in damage to the TMJ. In fact, it is one of the most common causes for developing a TMJ disorder. A bony ankyloses or weakness in the ligaments appears after the healing process casing altered jaw function.
Infection can also cause trauma to the joint and this can have the same effects as physical injury.
Your dentist will do a physical examination by asking to you open and close your mouth. X-rays of the jaw in the form of specialized OPGs might need to be taken. A CT scan may also be advised to check the integrity of the joint, while an MRI scan will help diagnose any soft tissue abnormalities in the joint.
A consultation with a specialist oral and maxillofacial surgeon might also be necessary.
The treatment for TMJ disorders can range from simple things like eating soft food and applying a hot/cold packs to surgical correction.
The most common treatment modalities are:
1. Oral physiotherapy exercises and relaxation techniques
2. Bite guard/Bite Splint
3. Hot and Cold packs
4. Resting your jaw by eating soft food for some time, as well as avoiding putting any excess pressure on it by not opening the mouth too wide.
5. Correction of obvious malocclusions and even replacement of missing teeth so that the jaw closure is at the anatomically desired position.
6. Oral and Maxillofacial surgery. This is only done in severe cases where the patient is at risk of lock jaw which can be life threatening or has to undergo corrective surgery after facial trauma.
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