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The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, connects your lower jaw (or mandible) to your skull. This joint is responsible for many of your jaw’s functions, including chewing.

TMJ disorders is an umbrella term used to describe all problems related to either your TMJ or your chewing muscles. These disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, continually clenching your jaw muscles, or grinding your teeth (a condition called bruxism).

If you suspect that you have a TMJ disorder, or know you have one and require treatment, please speak to your dentist during your next appointment.

TMJ Disorder Symptoms

Common TMJ disorder symptoms include:

  • Pain in one or both of your TMJs
  • Pain or tenderness in your jaw
  • Problems chewing
  • Pain while chewing
  • Aching facial pain
  • An ache or pain either in or around your ear
  • Locking of your TMJ which makes it difficult to open or close your mouth

Some patients with TMJ disorders may also experience a grinding or clicking noise when opening their mouths or chewing. However, unless you are experiencing movement problems or these symptoms are accompanied by pain, there is probably no cause for concern.

TMJ Disorder Causes

Since your TMJ both hinges and slides, it’s more susceptible to wear and tear than other joints in the body. To help protect this joint and the surrounding bones, both your TMJ and the bones that interact with it are covered in cartilage and separated from each other by a small, shock-absorbing disc.

The shock-absorbing disk and the cartilage also help ensure your TMJ moves smoothly.

TMJ disorders may occur if:

  • The protective cap of cartilage becomes damaged by arthritis
  • The shock-absorbing disk becomes eroded or misaligned
  • A blow or impact damages your TMJ

Risk Factors for TMJ Disorders

There are several factors that increase your chances of developing a TMJ disorder. These include:

  • A jaw injury
  • Arthritis, including both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Long term (or chronic) jaw clenching or teeth grinding
  • A connective tissue disease that affects the TMJ

For more information about TMJ disorders, and the treatment options available, please speak to your dentist during your next appointment.

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