The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint connecting the lower jaw, or mandible, to the temporal bone of the skull, which is in front of the ears. The joints are flexible to allow you to move your jaw up and down and side to side and to talk, chew, and yawn. Muscles control the position and movement of the jaw.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) can be caused by problems with the jaw, joint, and muscles. While the cause of TMD is unclear, dentists believe it can be a result of problems with the muscles of the jaw or the joint itself.
The jaw, the temporomandibular joints, or the head or neck muscles can be injured by a heavy blow, whiplash, grinding or clenching of the teeth, dislocation of the disc between the ball and socket, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ, or stress, which can cause someone to clench the teeth or tighten the facial and jaw muscles.
TMD can cause pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck, shoulders, or around the ear when you chew, talk, or open your mouth wide. The jaw can get locked in an open or closed position, and it can be difficult to open the mouth wide. You may also experience a clicking, popping, or grating sound when you chew or open or close your mouth. This may or may not be accompanied by pain. You may also experience a tired feeling in your face, difficulty chewing, an uncomfortable bite, and swelling. The symptoms may occur on only one side of the face or on both sides.
You may also experience other symptoms, such as toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, ear aches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain, or ringing in the ears. TMD can cause severe pain and discomfort. It can be temporary, or it can last for a long time. TMD is more common in women and in people 20 to 40 years old.
Other conditions, such as a toothache, sinus problems, arthritis, or gum disease, can cause symptoms similar to TMJ. If you experience these symptoms, visit your dentist, who will discuss your medical and dental history and conduct an examination to determine the cause of the problem.