What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint.  This is the joint between the temporal bones of the skull and the mandible (lower jaw).  This a joint held in place by a joint capsule and ligaments.  There is also a small disk of cartilage that sits between the glenoid fossa in the temporal bone of the skull and the mandibular condyles of the mandible.  The temporomandibular joint therefore consist of  muscles, bone, and a joint capsule that can affect our mouth’s ability to function properly.  Many times, TMJ refers to a problem known as temporomandibular pain-dysfunction disorder.

Temporomandibular pain-dysfunction syndrome has 3 main signs and symptoms.  They are: 1) pain in the muscles associated with chewing, opening and closing the jaw, and the jaw joint itself; 2)  The other major symptoms are clicking, or popping of the jaw joints and limitation of jaw movements; 3) Lesser symptoms may include  dislocation, or locking of the jaw joint in either the open or closed position and possible sensory changes in hearing.  Diagnosis of this disorder is based on the presence ot these major and minor symptoms as well as other minor individual symptoms that a person may be experiencing.

Some of the other individual symptoms may include the following: headaches of various types, the scalp being sensitive to touch, pain behind the eyes, neck pain and lack of mobility, an inability to find a comfortable resting bite, etc.

If you are having problems with pain in the muscles associated with opening and closing your mouth, limited opening and side to side movements of your lower jaw, clicking and/or popping jaw joints, your jaw locking open or closed, and/or changes in hearing, you may have temporomandibular joing pain-dysfunction syndrome and may need to see a dentist who treats this problem.  This is usually a progressive disorder and gets worse over time and can be destructive to the jaw joint itself.  This problem usually will not be resolved without treatment.


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