The temporomandibular joint (tem-puh-roe-man-DIB-u-lur) (TMJ) acts like a sliding ring, connecting your jaw to your skull. You have joints in every part of your jaw. TMJ disorders – a type of temporomandibular disorder, or TMD – can cause pain in the jaw joints and muscles that control jaw movement.
The exact cause of a person’s TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. Your pain may be due to a combination of factors, such as genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury. Some people with jaw pain also clench or grind their teeth (bruxism), although many people who clench or grind their teeth regularly do not cause TMJ problems.
In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders is temporary and can be relieved with self-care or non-surgical treatment. Surgery is often a last resort when conservative measures fail, but some people with TMJ disorders may benefit from surgical treatment.
Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Pain in one or both temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
TMJ disorders can also cause a clicking or grinding sensation when you open your mouth or chew. But if there’s no pain or limitation in movement associated with your jaw clicking, you probably don’t need treatment for a TMJ disorder.
The temporomandibular joint connects the index to the jaw movement. The parts of the bones that interact with the joint are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small disc that makes it weak, which usually makes the movement smooth.
Painful TMJ disorders can occur if:
- The disk is damaged or out of order
- The joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis
- The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact
However, in a lot of cases, the cause of TMJ disorders isn’t clear.
Factors that may increase the risk of developing TMJ syndrome include:
- Different kinds of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Jaw injury
- Long-term (chronic) grinding or clenching of teeth
- Certain joint diseases that cause problems can affect the temporomandibular joint
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