Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders
TMJ disorders are medical problems related to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. These problems can cause pain, difficulty chewing, and other issues. You can feel your TM joints by placing your fingers directly in front of your ears and opening your mouth. What you're feeling are the rounded ends of your lower jaw as they glide along with the joint socket of your temporal bone (that's the part of your skull that contains your inner ear and temple).TMJ disorders can affect people of any age. The cause of some TMJ disorders can be traced to trauma from a severe blow to the jaw, degeneration of the joints, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other forms of inflammation. The causes of many cases of TMJ disorders, however, aren't always clear. Some experts believe that responses to stress or anxiety may be a primary or contributing causal factor.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- A clicking sound or grating sensation when opening your mouth or chewing
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
- Uncomfortable bite
- An uneven bite, because one or more teeth are making premature contact
- You may feel pain or tenderness, even when you aren't moving your jaw
But in most cases, the pain or tenderness worsens when you move your jaw. Jaw clicking is common and doesn't always signal a problem. If there's no pain or limitation of movement associated with your jaw clicking, you probably don't have a TMJ disorder.
When to seek medical advice
If you have persistent pain or tenderness in your TMJ, cheek, facial pain and experience clicking or grating when you chew or move your jaw, or if you can't open or close your jaw completely, seek medical attention. Your doctor, dentist, or a TMJ specialist can discuss possible causes and treatments of TMJ disorders with you.