Dental Tips |3 min read

Why Does My Jaw Pop When I Eat?

Woman's jaw popping after holding burger and drinking green juice.

Eating can be a noisy business—crunching carrots, slurping soup, etc.—but should your jaw be adding to the orchestra with popping noises?


If you feel an awkward shifting, locking, or popping in your jaw, you’ve got yourself a problem.

But – have no fear.

Keep reading to find out what’s causing this and how we can help.

The not-so-cool popping jaw

Some people are proud to show off their double-jointed fingers, or a tongue strangely long enough to touch their nose, but a jaw that pops every time you chew? Not so cool.

The question is:

What is happening to your jaw joint when it does that and is it damaging something?

Jaw joint malfunctions

You’ve no doubt heard the term “TMJ” tossed around.

People who experience problems with their jaw, the jaw joint, or the surrounding facial muscles controlling its movement, often refer to their problem as a “TMJ” one.

The more correct term, however, is TMD (temporomandibular disorder), which refers to the actual condition. In contrast, the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is really just the name of a specific part of the jawbone mechanism.


It’s a big word that basically refers to the hinge joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull. These joints are flexible and should allow the jaw to move smoothly both up and down and side to side.

This action allows you to:

  • Talk
  • Chew
  • Yawn
  • And more

Furthermore, there are muscles attached to and surrounding your jaw joint that control its position and movement.

What if something malfunctions in this junction?

Damage control for jaw popping and TMD

Injuries to a jaw, its joints, or even the muscles of the head and neck—such as from whiplash, teeth grinding, or clenching—can cause TMD.

Common symptoms of TMD include:

  • Clicking, popping, or grinding sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth.
  • A jaw that locks in a certain position or is unable to reach a full range of motion.
  • Tenderness in or around the ear (similar feeling to an earache) when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide.
  • Facial pain or a tired feeling in the face, somewhat like a toothache.
  • Neck pain, shoulder pain, or headaches are also common symptoms.

What should I do next?

If you suspect you’re the victim of temporomandibular dysfunction, have your dentist conduct a thorough examination of your head and jaw. There are many TMD treatments available right from the dentist’s chair that can offer you great relief.

For TMJ therapy in Muncie, make an appointment with Dr. Greg Pyle!

Meet With Dr. Pyle


Our dental office, University Avenue Dental, is located in Muncie, IN… This text opens a new tab to the Google Maps website…, and serves the surrounding communities of Anderson, Yorktown, Selma, Middletown Park, and New Castle.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on June 18, 2014, and has been completely revamped for comprehensiveness and timeliness.

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