There are two matching temporomandibular joints -- one on each side of your head, located just in front of your ears. The abbreviation "TMJ" literally refers to the joint but is often used to mean any disorders or symptoms of this region.
Many TMJ-related symptoms are caused by the effects of physical and emotional stress on the structures around the joint. These structures include:
- Cartilage disk at the joint
- Muscles of the jaw, face, and neck
- Nearby ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves
Poor posture can also be an important factor in TMJ. For example, holding the head forward while looking at a computer all day strains the muscles of the face and neck.
Other factors that might make TMJ symptoms worse are stress, poor diet, and lack of sleep.
All of these stresses can result in "trigger points" -- contracted muscles and pinched nerves in your jaw, head, and neck. Trigger points can refer pain to other areas, causing a headache, earache, or toothache.
Other possible causes of TMJ-related symptoms include arthritis, fractures, dislocations, and structural problems present since birth.
- Biting or chewing difficulty or discomfort
- Clicking sound while chewing or opening the mouth
- Dull, aching pain in the face
- Grating sensation while chewing
- Jaw pain or tenderness of the jaw
- Reduced ability to open or close the mouth
TMJ pain and symptoms may need to be checked by more than one medical specialist, such as your primary care provider, a dentist, or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor.
Possible Relation to Lyme DiseaseEdit
"The geographic range of Lyme disease is spreading. Once thought to be limited to coastal New England, it has now been noted in 49 of the 50 states in the U.S. Lyme arthritis has commonly been associated with large peripheral joints such as the knee. Although the majority of affected patients report knee joint pain, a significant number also report temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) symptoms. The TMJ is the fourth most commonly affected joint in Lyme disease. Therefore, this condition should be included in the workup of patients complaining of TMJ pain and dysfunction. Questions should be asked about the patient’s home setting, other joint problems and the presence of the diagnostic rash, erythema migrans (EM). Early diagnosis of Lyme disease can minimize the chances of late complications, which may be severe. This case report discusses an 8-year, 6-month-old Hispanic male who presented with acute closed jaw lock that led to the diagnosis of Lyme disease."