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Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Syndrome (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder)

TMJ Syndrome Overview

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is pain in the jaw joint that can be caused by a variety of medical problems. The TMJ connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone) in front of the ear. Certain facial muscles that control chewing are also attached to the lower jaw. Problems in this area can cause head and neck pain, facial pain, ear pain, headaches, a jaw that is locked in position or difficult to open, problems with biting, and jaw clicking or popping sounds when you bite. Temporomandibular joint syndrome is also referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder. Overall, more women than men have TMJ syndrome.

The TMJ is comprised of muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and bones. You have two TMJs, one on each side of your jaw.

Muscles involved in chewing (mastication) also open and close the mouth. The jawbone itself, controlled by the TMJ, has two movements: rotation or hinge action, which is opening and closing of the mouth, and gliding action, a movement that allows the mouth to open wider. The coordination of this action also allows you to talk, chew, and yawn.

If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the joint and its movement. When you open your mouth, the rounded ends of the lower jaw (condyles) glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone. The condyles slide back to their original position when you close your mouth. To keep this motion smooth, a soft disk of cartilage lies between the condyle and the temporal bone. This disk absorbs shock to the temporomandibular joint from chewing and other movements. Chewing creates a strong force. This disk distributes the forces of chewing throughout the joint space.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/9/2015
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Treatment Overview

The most common dental treatment for TM disorders is using splints or bite plates for a short period of time. Splints?called occlusal splints?are usually clear, plastic appliances that fit between the upper and lower teeth. They help reduce grinding and clenching (bruxism) and, in turn, can relieve muscle tension and pain. This may allow a displaced disc to return to its normal position. Splints are used over short periods of time so that they do not cause permanent changes in the teeth or jaw.

Temporarily avoid dental work (such as crowns, bridges, or shaving down the teeth) and orthodontic treatmentsinvolving permanent changes to the jaw. At best, these measures may not work any better than conservative treatments. At worst, they can cause irreversible damage. If your doctor recommends surgery or other treatment that involves permanent changes, be sure to get a second opinion before you start treatment.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome »

TMJ, or temporal mandibular joint, is the synovial joint that connects the jaw to the skull.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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