Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
195 Little Albany Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-2681
TMJ disorders are problems with your jaw joint and chewing muscles.
The temporomandibular joint, or “TMJ,” is where your lower jaw meets your skull.
You have two temporomandibular joints, one in front of each ear.
Each joint connects your lower jawbone, called the “mandible, to the temporal bones of your skull.
A soft cushion, called a “disc,” sits between the bones.
The rounded ends of the mandible and the discs slide forward when you open your mouth.
They slide back in place as you close your mouth.
Muscles are attached to the mandible and control its movement.
The joint can open and close, like a hinge.
But, unlike many other joints, the TMJ can also slide forward and backward, and side-to-side.
Because of this sliding ability, the joint needs your jaw muscles and teeth to help guide it into proper position when you open and close your mouth.
In one type of TMJ disorder, your disc may move out of place.
In a second type, your joint can be damaged by medical problems like arthritis, where your joint becomes inflamed and breaks down.
And in a third type, you may have painful spasms in your jaw muscles.
Other health problems, such as grinding your teeth at night, can also cause symptoms in the joint.
The most common symptom of TMJ disorders is pain in the joint and nearby muscles.
Sometimes pain in the TMJ is mistaken for an earache because the ear is so close to the joint.
Headaches can result from pain that starts in the muscles around your jaw and temple area.
Other symptoms include: problems moving your jaw,
painful clicking when you open or close your mouth, and changes in the way your teeth meet.
If you have questions about TMJ disorders, speak with your doctor.