The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a small joint located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet. It allows the lower jaw (mandible) to move and function. TMJ disorders have a variety of symptoms. Patients may complain of earaches, headaches and limited ability to open the mouth. They may also complain of clicking or grating sounds in the joint and feel pain when opening and closing the mouth.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
One of the largest contributing factors in TMJ disease is habitual clenching or grinding of the teeth and jaws. It causes muscle pain, facial pain, headache and sometimes jaw joint pain. Arthritis is another cause of TMJ symptoms. It can result from an injury or age. A common cause involves displacement or dislocation of the joint disc that is located between the jawbone and the socket. A displaced disc may produce clicking or popping sounds, limit jaw movement and cause pain during opening and closing of the mouth. There are also conditions such as trauma or rheumatoid arthritis that can cause the parts of the TMJ to fuse, preventing jaw movement altogether.
Stress may also affect jaw function. Physical, emotional, and unresolved conflicts are forms of stress that may affect jaw function. There are other types of stress, but it is important to know that physical or emotional stress make jaw joint problems worse. Management and control of stress is often a very important part of successful treatment.