young adult woman holding her jaw in discomfort

Along with jaw pain, joint sounds are a commonly reported TMJ symptom. However, what do these sounds mean for your TMJ? Here’re some basic descriptions of the sounds you may hear in your jaw joint.

Snapping or Clicking

This is the most common TMJ-related sound. It’s a sharp sound that occurs suddenly at some point while you are opening your jaw. Some people may also have it when you close your jaw.

The cause of this sound is that the disk that rests between the rounded part of your jaw bone and the socket it fits into has been displaced. When you open your jaw, this disk slips back into place, causing the sharp clicking sound. Sometimes, people will also have sounds when the jaw is closing and the disk slips out of place again, but this is less common.


Popping is another sound that people report when describing TMJ-related sounds. This is caused by the same event as clicking. The difference is caused by several factors. If your disk slides back into place later, your mouth is open wider, which creates a greater resonance cavity that can dull the sharpness of the sound, making it more like a pop than a click. It may also be due to your anatomy, which causes a rounder sound. Finally, the use of sound words is somewhat subjective, so what might be a clicking sound to one person is more like a popping sound to another.


Crepitus is the scientific word for grinding in the jaw joint. This sound occurs when your bones are actually grinding together. This occurs when the cushioning disk has been damaged by wear, constant displacement, injury, or disease. Grinding may also occur when the disk is displaced and the joint is now resting on the soft tissue designed to hold the disk in place, not cushion the bones.

Typically, crepitus is a sign of advanced TMJ. Please talk to a neuromuscular dentist in Spokane before your joint reaches the state at which grinding occurs.

For an appointment at Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics in Spokane, please call (509) 532-1111 today.