Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)

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Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome facts

  • The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. When this joint is injured or damaged, it can lead to a disorder called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome.
  • Causes of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome include injury to the teeth or jaw, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, teeth grinding, poor posture, stress, arthritis, and gum chewing.
  • Signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome include pain in the jaw joint, clicking of the jaw, ear pain, popping sounds in ears, headaches, stiff or sore jaw muscles, pain in the temple area, or locking of the jaw.
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome often responds to home remedies, including ice packs to the joint, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), avoiding chewing gum, massage or gentle stretches of the jaw and neck, and stress reduction.
  • When home treatment does not work, medical treatment for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome includes dental splints, Botox injections, physical therapy, prescription medications, and in severe cases, surgery.
  • The prognosis for TMJ syndrome is generally good as the disorder can usually be managed with self-care and home remedies.

What is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome?

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is a disorder of the jaw muscles and nerves caused by injury to the temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joint is the connection between the jawbone to the skull. The injured temporomandibular joint leads to pain with chewing, clicking, and popping of the jaw; swelling on the sides of the face; nerve inflammation; headaches; tooth grinding (bruxism); Eustachian tube dysfunction; and sometimes dislocation of the temporomandibular joint. Temporomandibular joint syndrome is also known as temporomandibular joint disorder.

What are the risk factors for TMJ syndrome?

There are several risk factors for TMJ syndrome:

  • Poor posture in the neck and upper back muscles may lead to neck strain and abnormalities of jaw muscle function.
  • Stress may increase muscle tension and jaw clenching.
  • Women 18-44 years of age have increased risk.
  • Patients with other chronic inflammatory arthritis have increased risk.
  • People with jaw trauma or poorly positioned teeth have increased risk.
  • People who have a genetic predisposition to pain sensitivity and increased stress responses may be more susceptible.

What causes TMJ syndrome?

The causes of TMJ syndrome are not completely understood. Multiple factors contribute to the muscle tightness and dysfunction that characterize this condition. It is not clear whether some of these causes directly lead to TMJ syndrome or if they are a result of the disorder. Causes may include

  • misalignment (malocclusion) of or trauma to the teeth or jaw,
  • teeth grinding (bruxism),
  • poor posture,
  • stress or anxiety,
  • arthritis and other inflammatory musculoskeletal disorders,
  • excessive gum chewing.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/2/2015

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TMJ Symptoms and Causes

The temporomandibular joints are complex structures containing muscles, tendons, and bones. Injury to or disorders of these structures can all result in pain in the jaw area.