The Case of the Conundrum of the Clicking and the Clacking

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This happens almost every day at my office. A new patient will come in because their jaw joints are hurting and they simply cannot figure out why things are so bad. It really can be quite the conundrum for them. When I start asking questions the truth comes out: The TM joints have been clicking and clacking and popping for many years now and no one told the patient that this is a serious problem! Let me explain. When the disc that sits on top of the jaw bone is slipped away from it’s normal position, it will rub against blood vessels and nerves that traverse through the joint. For some people the popping and clicking does not cause any pain at all…at least for now. For others, just a slightly displaced disc will cause tremendous and debilitating pain.

Let me tell you what I have seen over the years when it comes to displaced discs in the jaw joints. I have seen quite a number of people come to my office in a wheelchair and after just a few months of them wearing our devices they graduate to a walker and eventually are able to walk on their own. I have had many cases of patients with Tourette’s Syndrome where the appliances have made the person able to stop the tics and lead a normal life. Displaced discs also correlate greatly with migraines as well. Who would’ve thunk?

One of the problems with delayed treatment for slipped discs is that the longer they are out of place, the harder it is to get them to go back into proper position. This is why I would suggest that if you have popping/clicking/clacking/clunking in those jaw joints, try to deal with the problem before it becomes more serious. So many people explain to me that ‘it’s been popping for many years…and it only became a problem in the last few months. Well, my analogy is that if your car had a radiator leak or an oil leak and you could see the fluids on your driveway, then there was a serious problem. If you ignore that oil leak, the problem just gets worse until one day the entire engine seizes up and will not function. This is like the jaw joint- you have had the warning signs for many years- popping/clicking- yet nothing was done about it and now it’s an emergency and you want it fixed! And you want it fixed ASAP!

It is actually unfortunate that so many people out there have slipped discs and do nothing about it. What I hear in many cases is that ‘my dentist told me not to worry about it’ or ‘my PCP said it’s nothing to be concerned with’. Well folks, that’s wrong! The clickity clackity joints are telling you something and you really need to listen! The human body is actually quite remarkable. You are getting the warning signs well in advance of a catastrophic failure – what more could you want? If only more of the doctors out there understood how dangerous the slipped discs can be, the pain they can cause, the loss of quality of life, not to mention the problems they create with your sleep.

As I tell most of our patients here at the office: Please spread the word and help a family or friend. If they have joint noises, cannot open their jaw all the way, or it hurts or locks up now and then, get the jaw joints checked by someone who knows how to diagnose the problem and deal with it.