I have similar problems too. But your problem seems more serious. I hear popping sounds when i open/close my mouth. I dont have pain always, but i feel like my joints are getting dislocated a bit, everytime i yawn/open my mouth wide. My dentist told me I got some problem in my TMJ. Well.... there r many sites that explain u the possible reasons. But sometimes, even doctors are unable to find reasons for every case. And most treatments may not give the expected results. This is because TMJD is not a result of just one problem and in most cases it doesnt have one solution. Most TMJ cases are due to muscle stress(around jaw area as well as neck, shoulder and many parts of the body), teeth misalignment, hereditory factors, a tension filled lifestyle, chewing habits.....etc.. Do a search, and find some sites that explain you the reasons, as well as provide you with some self help. Many sites I came across, advises to do some jaw exercises and massage with your fingers many times in a day. I tried the massage,and it worked quite well for me. But I still have the prob, and I"m going to consult a specialist this month. By the way, do you have problems with jaw movements? do they open & close symmetrically? Mine slides bit more to the right hand side, and as the result, I have asymmetry. But it has improved after I did some self-treatment. anyway u got any idea about splints & how they work? anyone else here can help???? And one last thing before i finish...you should avoid getting stressed out, angry, hard to bite stuff, chewing gum etc...so relax yourself, massage your jaw area(especially the joint in front of your ears) with your fingers, & apply hot wet towel around your jaw, neck areas while doing massage & jaw exercises & i think you would see a tangible improvement.