Temporomandibular disorders are caused by problems with the jaw muscles or joints or the fibrous tissue connecting them.
People may have headaches and tenderness of the chewing muscles or may hear clicking of the joints in the jaw.
Doctors or dentists can usually diagnose these disorders with a physical examination, but sometimes an imaging test is needed.
Treatment usually involves splint therapy and pain relief.
The temporomandibular joints are the connections between the temporal bones of the skull and the lower jawbone (mandible). There are two temporomandibular joints, one on each side of the face just in front of the ears. Ligaments, tendons, and muscles support the joints and are responsible for jaw movement.
The temporomandibular joint is one of the most complicated joints in the body: It opens and closes like a hinge and slides forward, backward, and from side to side. During chewing, it may sustain an enormous amount of pressure depending on the position and health of the upper and lower teeth, which act much like a doorstop for the joints during closing. The temporomandibular joint contains a piece of special cartilage called a disk. The disk keeps the skull and the lower jawbone from rubbing against each other.
Temporomandibular disorders, previously called TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders, are most common among women in their early 20s and between the ages of 40 and 50. In rare cases, infants are born with temporomandibular joint abnormalities. Temporomandibular disorders include problems with the joints, the muscles, and the bands of fibrous tissue that connect them (fascia).