Why does my jaw keep popping out of place and what can I do about it?

For the past few months,my jaw literally pops out of place on the left side of my face. It hurts, and I can’t open my mouth. I’ve gotten quite good at popping it back into place though.
Last night was particularly bad, because it popped out more than once. This morning I’m fine again, but my head aches from it.
My jaw has always made a clicking sound when I eat, and in the past I was scared it would pop out…I can’t believe it’s a reality. Also, I used to have a horrible overbite, I still do actually, but when I was young, I just forced my front teeth back. I can’t help but think that the overbite was a result of my jaw problem.
I don’t have insurance right now, and I can’t go to a doctor. Should I make this a top priority and get to the doctor ASAP? I mean, obviously, it’s uncomfortable, but would it have long last affects on my health? My biggest fear is that one day it’ll pop out and I’ll never get it back in.

It could be serious.

Go to the mirror and keep your mouth closed. Draw an imaginary line from your chin to the ground, straight down. Open your jaw naturaly and see if it is straight down or if you tend to open it on an angle.

If you open it on an angle, try opening it straight down and then train yourself to do that naturaly.

If it clicks while opening it straight down, you might want to see a doctor.

Yes, it might be serious. I have a very mild condition called TMJ, in which my jaw pops out a little, sometimes, and only if I open my mouth real wide. So it’s really no problem for me, but at each visit, my dentist asks me all about it to make sure it’s not getting worse. IOW, it is important that you get it checked out. Do you have a regular dentist? Because you could maybe call him or her on the phone and ask about it.

Yeah, this sucks—I have the same problem. The trouble is (as my dentist told me) the more it slides in and out of place, the more you’re actually eroding your jawbone. A year or so ago, he took x-rays and showed me how one side of the bone has actually worn down, making it harder for my jaw to stay in place. Like you, I’ve gotten used to sliding it back in, but it’s not a problem that tends to get better with time.

My jaw pops out too. Left side only. Most times it only pops a little and pops right back in again, no pain or discomfort at all. Very rarely - usually when I’m eating something especially large, tough or crunchy - it seems to pop farther, and I have a devil of a time getting it back in. A little pain and I can still eat while it’s popped out, but it’s pretty uncomfortable.

I’m opening and closing my jaw right now, and I can feel the joint on the left side sort of crunching as it moves. Wierd.

I spoke with a dentist (who was also an oral surgeon) about it a few years ago. She said that the tendon (or is it ligament? Which one connects bone to bone?) was a little loose, and she thought it was no big deal as long as it didn’t bother me. If necessary, she could tighten it up with surgery. I didn’t think that was necessary, so I live with it.

But sometimes I wonder if it’ll get worse as I age.

DISCLAIMER: IANAD. All of the below is the result of life experience.

plg, I am going to say you should make this a TOP priority. I also have mild TMJ that I am attempting to control with jaw exercises. It’s mostly, for me, caused by stress and teeth grinding at night. Sounds like your mandibular tendon has stretched far beyond the ‘ok’ point. I work with a guy who has had to have surgery for this, and his sister had to have reconstructive surgery. I don’t want to scare you, but go and inform yourself right away. There is some good data online. You may be able to do things to help alleviate the problem. Try massaging the area just in front of your earlobe, in the hollows of the cheeks, and the area below your ears, just behind the point of jaw, regularly, it could help alleviate some of the pain and reduce pressure in the area. Also, don’t sing or play any horn or woodwind instruments for a while, if you do that (my singing will aggravate it, I have found. My fiance’s sister’s TMJ started with her horn playing) If you have a retainer, make sure you wear it. if you don’t have one, you may want to get one. Having your jaw out of line can cause this.

Notes: TMJ can also cause tinnitus because it will put unnatural stress on the area near your ear. Hearing loss can occur. In the most extreme examples of TMJ, the mandible bone (which is not a socket joint like the shoulder, or a complex joint like the knee, but almost a lever that fits in a slot) can be worn so that the jaw will completely drop open at times and you would have to lift it back into place. (this was the case with my co-worker’s sister. She required a bone graft.)

I am eating an apple. My jaw is popping as we speak. :rolleyes: When it’s bothering you, don’t eat sandwiches, crunchy foods, anything that requires a lot of effort or large jaw opening to eat.

Also, consciously relaxing your jaw muscles before you fall asleep can help. I’ve been doing this and I find it helps alot. I’ll catch myself clenching my teeth together as I fall asleep regularly.

My shoulder is constantly popping out of the socket. Usually when I’m carrying something heavy, like a backpack. Could this be the same thing? It doesn’t hurt unless I leave my shoulder that way without popping it back it. I’m just afraid i’m going to wear down cartilage or something and have problems later in life.

Stop chewing gum for a while.

I had TMJ and my dentist recommended a mouthguard. Because I would have to pay her hundreds of dollars, I declined.

I thought about my daily habits and realized it was because I was chewing gum for hours at a time. Stopped the chewing, and TMJ went away after a week.

BTW, I have resumed gum chewing (less than 1 hr at a time) with no problems or reoccurence.

I went through a period of doing this all the time. It could happen while eating or even yawning. It give a really audible click too. Thing is, it didn’t hurt and I could pop it back easily.
It still happens occasionally, but I’ve never found it a problem. But if it’s hurting you then I’d say you want to go see a doctor.

Link on jaw pop out problem. Most solutions seem to require surgery of some kind.


"For Marie King of Cherry Hill, the problem was the opposite - too much jawbone. Her chin was set too far back, and a smile exposed all of her gums and teeth.

She felt a great deal of discomfort: “My lower jaw popped out a lot, or it would lock,” she says. She was also bitterly teased by her classmates.

This summer, doctors removed about three-quarters of an inch of bone from across her upper jaw, and her lower jaw was broken in four places, to help stretch it out. By the time school started, Marie’s looks had changed dramatically.

“A lot of kids did not recognize me,” Marie says. “They asked if I had a sister, but some people asked if I cut my hair. I didn’t really tell anyone.”

Dr. Madani says 10 million people may have serious jaw deformities - most of them relatively easy to fix, and it can make a world of difference in their lives"

Thank you everybody for your replies. I really, really appreciate them.
I should specify that it usually doesn’t hurt, I think I was uncomfortable this morning because last night was worse than usual.
The worse is when it pops out, and I push it back in, it makes a very loud noice. After that I’m fine.
I’ll do some investigating around the 'net today (thanks astro for providing a starting point), and I’ll visit the campus infirmery to see what they have to say.
When my husband got his wisdom teeth pulled, I did ask the dentist there if I should schedule an appointment with him over it. He said that my best bed would be to go to a doctor.
Hmmm, just six more weeks until we get real health insurance…

Argg, a bunch of you have hit one of my pet peeves. For a couple years I worked at a dental clinic, and mostly with the TMJ disorder specialist. People always say “I have TMJ”… well everyone has a tmj, not everyone has a tmj disorder. The tmj is the temporal mandibular joint. It is your jaw joint. People with a tmj disorder experience clicking, popping, dislocation, pain when chewing, headaches. It is not totally known what causes it, but generally it is thought to be connected with night time bruxism (teeth grinding), as well as stress. A good portion of people allow stress to build up in their neck and shoulders, and this causes stress to tranfer to the ligaments and tendons of the tmj. If you do not treat the condition, and it continues to worsen, you may find yourself with a jaw that locks open or closed. At worst case, surgery may be required to realign things and relocate the joint.
A dentist treats tmj with an interoral device called a splint. It can resemble a mouthguard, and helps realign your bite, as well as protecting teeth from grinding. These can be a soft or hard plastic, and would usually be worn at all times except when eating, and gradually weening yourself till only night time wear is needed.
As for now, until you can get some pro treatment, it is suggested that you get a neck and shoulder massage, use warm rags or heat packs directly on the joint whenever it is painful, as always be conscious of the position of your jaw. It is best to keep “your lips together, and your teeth apart”. Just keep your jaw muscles relaxed. Your tmj pro may also prescribed muscle relaxants as well as something to help you sleep more soundly.

You don’t have to have insurance to see the doc. Just call the local hospital & ask them for references on what to do.

The stuff about surgery kind of worried me. Lately I’ve been able to pop my jaw. I don’t think it’s out of place or anything. I do it once, and then I don’t do it again for a couple of hours. It sounds, and feels, just like popping knuckles. I don’t have any pain or discomfort. When I pop my jaw it actually feels good, like popping my fingers.

Should I be worried?

Well, the fact that you can pop it at all would mean that the ligaments and tendons aren’t as tight as they should be. If there isn’t any pain or discomfort, you are fine now, but TMJ problems can creep up on you. Once you feel pain it is already a sign that you have problems, and might need treatment of some sort.
I would avoid popping it as often, and just be conscious of how tense you are or if you are clenching your jaw at any point during the day.

OK… First of all, health insurance person checking in. TMJ disorders are almost never covered, either by dental or by medical insurance. Even if you have one or the other or both, good luck getting this covered.

:switching hats:

I have a moderate case of TMJ disorder that I got after a car accident. It’s caused numerous problems, including pain, difficulty in moving my jaw at times, and dental problems from not being able to clean my teeth properly.

The two dentists I’ve talked to about this have said that surgery is the last resort. It can be disfiguring and it doesn’t always work. In the meantime, I’m stuck with ibuprofen and trying to relax a little more.


If any of you are still following this older thread… can you tell me how you “pop your jaw back into place”? Like specific directions. I’ve had mild tmjd for over 20 yrs now. Not many symptoms really. But last night I was eating some chewy bread while leaning over a coffee table (from the couch). I felt my bite go “off”. My teeth no longer lined up correctly. No pain just weird. It was still there when I go up this morning. My TM joints make a “clunking” (not popping) sound when I put my lower jaw forward.
Since, I too have no insurance, I’d like to avoid going to a specialist to pop it back into place. Can anyone help?

My jaw has grown out of place my whole life because i was born with it. I have a deaf right ear because of it. Now that I’m almost 16 it’s gotten worse because instead of popping out of place it actually leaves migranes and pain in my right jaw and ear area. It makes me sleepy and weak and I have to keep taking panadol. I also saw the doctor and they say I have tmj disfunction and I also have to do exercises to train my jaw to get back into propper alignment and strengthen my jaw so it’s not so painful anymore. It’s actually working but I also am worried if it get’s worse as I get older but I hope for the best and for u too :slight_smile:

What I did to get my jaw back into place was push it with my palm really hard until it worked but If I were you I wouldn’t do it because that’s probably why my jaw was in so much pain after a couple of months-years. But the other thing that helps is just wait it out and try moving your jaw slowly and straight up evenly ever so often because that worked for me too.

Based on my personal experience only,YMMV

The thing that cured my TMJ almost completely was dental work. I had about a dozen old amalgam fillings and I had a dentist recommend their removal. I was doing this to attempt to eliminate some sharp pains I got on occasion when drinking liquids, my dentist thought leaky fillings were causing the problem.

My other problem, related to the TMJ symptoms and headaches, was horrible tooth sensitivity in general. I had given up foods like ice cream and watermelon completely.

But when this new dentist recommended the filling replacement I was skeptical. However I was glad to get a real suggestion instead of what I had been getting from the previous dentist which was " you’re getting older --there’s nothing to be done".

So he replaced 5 amalgam fillings on the right side with composite fillings. When I got up the next morning after the novacaine had worn off I realized that the TMJ issues had diminshed by 90% on the right side only.

Stunned and amazed, I called the dentist and made an appointment to have the rest of my filllings changed.

The dentist was rather suprised, too…he is not a holistic dentist, just one that thinks composite fillings are a better choice for older patients. But anyway, he changed the rest of the fillings and the TMJ subsided ( I currently have a little tightness on the left side of my jaw and I am continually stretching it out ). I do find it interesting that the area of the jaw that is still tight corresponded to the only remaining amalgam in my mouth ( there was a filling with a very deep amalgam base and it could not be removed without compromising the tooth.

But anyway, medical doctors will often not take dental and vision into account when evaluating TMJ ( mine never did ) but they can often be factors.