After Braces My Jaw Pops – What is Wrong?

Braces are intended to transform your smile and gradually shift the teeth, not cause “popping” or “clicking” of the jaw. If you notice your jaw popping after braces, you should immediately schedule an appointment with your orthodontist. Jaw popping may be a sign of a problem with the temporomandibular joint or TMJ. The TMJ connects the mandible (your lower jaw) to the temporal bone of your skull. It is known to be quite a complex joint since it is responsible for opening, closing, and sliding movements front to back, as well as side-to-side.

If you have a problem with your TMJ, (or more commonly referred to as Temporomandibular Disorder) you may experience the following symptoms in addition to popping or clicking of the jaw when you open or close your mouth:

  • Facial pain or ea
  • Constant headaches
  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • Pain or tenderness in your ear when you chew, talk, or open your mouth widely
  • A stuck or locked jaw


If you believe you are showing the symptoms of TMJ issues, it’s important to visit with the dentist or orthodontist as soon as possible! Please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with a dental professional, especially in the event that your symptoms seem to worsen. The longer you prolong your visit, the more severe your TMJ symptoms are likely to become over time.

Once at the dentist or orthodontist, he or she will ask you about your ongoing symptoms and perform an exam to properly evaluate any issues at hand. During this exam, you can expect the dentist or orthodontist to feel your jaw at the TMJ and simultaneously listen for any popping or clicking while you open and close your mouth repeatedly. Additionally, you may be asked to slide your jaw forwards, backwards or side-to-side so that the dentist or orthodontist can appropriately evaluate the range of motion of your jaw. Do not be alarmed if the dentist or orthodontist presses on areas of the jaw or neck to look for areas of pain or discomfort, which can help when trying to address a solution to your symptoms.

If your orthodontist or dentist notices any issues, dental x-rays may be necessary so that your teeth and jaw can be examined. Today, dental x-rays are much simpler than they used to be! In fact, dental x-rays have one of the lowest levels of radiation so this need not be a factor when receiving any diagnostic x-rays. In certain cases, more than a in-office dental x-ray may be needed in which case a CT or MRI would be appropriate. The CT scans and MRIs are used to help reveal more evidence that may pinpoint any TMJ issues.

In the event you are diagnosed with TMJ disorder, there are a variety of treatments your orthodontist may recommend including:

  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers or prescriptions such as muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Adhering to a soft food diet
  • Applying heat or ice to the jaw
  • Learning relaxation techniques to control muscle tension
  • Stress management techniques
  • Wearing a night guard to remove the harmful effects of teeth clenching or grinding
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery

As a rule of thumb, it is best to try the simplest of these treatments first meaning surgery would be the last option to turn to! Initially, a dentist or orthodontist may recommend a night guard at night and if noticeable clenching occurs during the day, you may also be asked to wear it during the day. Other instructions may be given in combination of the night guard like a soft food diet, stress management, and relaxation techniques to help relax the jaw. If after 4 weeks improvements are not recognized, the dentist or orthodontist may reevaluate to explore new solutions.


Avoid Overusing Your Jaw Muscles

You may do this by sticking to a soft food diet and eating meals that contain foods like mashed potatoes and yogurt. It’s a good idea to cut your food into tiny pieces and stay away from chewy or sticky foods as much as possible. It is not recommended that you eat foods that will cause you to open your jaw widely like biting into an apple, cheeseburger, or sandwich.

Stretching Exercises

There are a number of stretching exercises that your orthodontist can show so you can stretch and strengthen your jaw. They can also teach you how you can massage your jaw on your own.

Hot Compress or Ice

If you’re feeling any pain or discomfort, apply a warm compress or ice to the side of your face.

Avoid Certain Habits

Clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth, and chewing pencils can all contribute to the symptoms of TMJ. Although it’s easier said than done, it’s crucial to avoid these habits as much as possible. A great saying to remember to keep your jaw relaxed throughout the day is, “Lips together, teeth a part.” Your teeth are not meant to come in contact with each other and this easy saying can help to prevent any clenching or grinding from occurring.

To avoid TMJ after braces, you should be sure that you are wearing your retainer regularly as directed. If you notice that you may be grinding or clenching your jaw, you should certainly ask your dentist or orthodontist about a night guard, which can quickly help to solve any TMJ issues.


If you’re facing jaw popping after braces, call our office today at (919) 453-6325 to schedule an appointment. Dr. Jason Gladwell will examine your jaw and teeth and let you know whether a TMJ disorder or another condition may be present.

Read this page in Spanish here – ¿Por qué mi mandíbula hace clic después de los frenillos?