The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull (in front of the ear). It lets you move your jaw up and down and side to side so you can talk, chew, and yawn.
Problems with your jaw and the muscles in your face that control it are known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
TMD can be caused by a number of problems with the muscles and ligaments of your jaw or with the joint itself. They include:
- Injury to your jaw, the joint, the muscles of your head and neck
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Movement of the disc between the ball and socket of the joint
- Arthritis in the joint
- Stress which can cause you to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench your teeth
- The anatomical way your jaw and teeth developed and formed
TMD often causes severe pain, discomfort and may affect one or both sides of your face. Common symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth
- Jaws that get "stuck" or "locked" in the open or closed-mouth position
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when you open or close your mouth or chew. This may or may not be painful.
- Trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite - as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
- Swelling on the side of your face
- Some people experience toothaches, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, ear aches or tinnitus
A full lengthy examination is required to check your jaw joints for pain or tenderness and listen for clicks, pops, or grating sounds when you move them. Tests are made to make sure the jaw and bite functions normally, and does not lock when you open or close your mouth. Xrays and MRI scans may also be necessary.
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