Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders may result in pain in your face, jaw, or teeth. TMJ disorders can also result in clicking or popping noises in your jaw or problems chewing.
What is the TMJ? The TMJ is a ball and socket joint located where the upper and lower jaws meet. There is one joint on each side of your mouth. These joints are a part of a system of muscles, ligaments, and bones that enable you to talk and chew comfortably. The muscles open and close the joint. Pressure in the joint is absorbed by the disk. The disk also enables the jaws to open and close smoothly. The jaw bones are connected to the skull by ligaments.
Pain can be caused by the tightening of the muscles surrounding the TMJ.
- Referred Pain – Pain that occurs in a part of the body separate from the source of the problem.
- Myofascial Pain – Pain that occurs in soft tissues. Trigger points in these pain areas may cause referred pain, such as jaw, neck, or shoulder pain.
Pain, redness, heat, swelling, and loss of function may all result from inflammation.
- Synovitis – This occurs when certain tissues surrounding the TMJ are inflamed. The pain that results increases with jaw movement.
- Inflamed Ligaments – Are usually caused by strain or injury. This results in the ligaments being unable to support the joint.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis – A joint disease that leads to inflammation in the TMJ.
Damaged joints may be the result if there is a combination of a clicking sound and pain during jaw movement.
- Impingement – This occurs when the disk slips out of place. A clicking sound may result as the disk slips.
- Locked Jaw – When the disk gets stuck in one position locked jaw occurs. The jaw may lock open or closed.
- Osteoarthritis – A joint disease that causes the TMJ to degenerate. Pain results during movement.
Bruxism – Grinding the teeth side to side.
Clenching – Biting down on the teeth.
Malocclusion – Teeth or bite is out of alignment.