It is not that uncommon for patients to have a clicking jaw when they open their mouths. It is evidence that the fibrous capsule that attaches to the disk in the temporomandibular joint has a tear in it. Often this symptom is painless and nothing invasive needs to be done to correct it. The best remedy is for a patient to wear a well made night guard at night, in order to help limit the stress that the joint experiences during sleep.
If a patient has a clicking joint and pain, then they may be experiencing a more acute flare up. Pain can be evidence of inflammation around the joint and a patient should see a dentist for diagnosis and to receive treatment for their problem. Usually treatment consists of educating the patient about their condition and reminding them that they should refrain from “heavy use” of their jaws during the acute flare up; Chewing easy to chew foods, no gum chewing, and to refrain from opening their mouth extremely wide are advisable steps to take. Anti inflammatory medications are helpful and the patient should wear a night guard appliance to protect their jaws from any night time parafunctional jaw activities.
Tears in the tmj capsule do not repair themselves, but with enough time, most pain associated with an initial tear will go away and most patients do not seek a surgical solution. Instead they are advised to wear a night guard and go about their normal activities. They will experience flare ups from time to time, but most do not require jaw surgery.