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TMJ Disorder Treatment

TMJ disorders — a type of temporomandibular disorder or TMD — can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your mandible (lower jaw) to your skull. The joint can be found on both sides of your head in front of your ears. It allows your jaw to open and close, letting you speak and eat.

The abbreviation “TMJ” has also been used to refer to a group of health conditions related to your jaw. However, this is becoming more commonly abbreviated as “TMD” or “TMJD” to distinguish the temporomandibular joint itself from TMJ disorders.

These disorders can cause:

  • tenderness at the joint

  • facial pain

  • difficulty moving the joint

Symptoms
 

Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:

 

  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw

  • Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints

  • Aching pain in and around your ear

  • Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing

  • Aching facial pain

  • Locking of the joint makes it difficult to open or close your mouth

 

TMJ disorders can also cause a clicking sound or grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew. But if there's no pain or limitation of movement associated with your jaw clicking, you probably don't need treatment for a TMJ disorder.

 

Causes
 

The temporomandibular joint combines a hinge action with sliding motions. The parts of the bones that interact in the joint are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, which normally keeps the movement smooth.

 

Painful TMJ disorders can occur if:

  • The disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment

  • The joint's cartilage is damaged by arthritis

  • The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact

In many cases, however, the cause of TMJ disorders isn't clear.

 

Risk factors
 

Factors that may increase the risk of developing TMJ disorders include:

 

  • Various types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis

  • Jaw injury

  • Long-term (chronic) grinding or clenching of teeth

  • Certain connective tissue diseases that cause problems that may affect the temporomandibular joint