Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull by way of the temporal bone located just in front of each ear. Temporomandibular joint disorders include a group of several problems that affect the jaw, jaw joint, and surrounding facial muscles. These issues cause pain and tenderness in the face, jaw, neck, shoulders, and ear areas, thus impairing a person’s ability to chew, speak, or open and close the mouth. Other symptoms include jaws that lock or stick in an open or close position, a clicking or popping sound in the jaw joint, a feeling of fatigue in the facial muscles, facial swelling, toothaches, dizziness, and ringing in the ears. The pain can be temporary or chronic. In some cases, it may last for many years. It’s more common in men than in women, and affects people in the 20 to 40-year-old age range more than any other age group. Causes of TMJ disorders include injury to the jaw, jaw joint, or head and neck muscles (often from a heavy impact or whiplash), tooth grinding or clenching, joint dislocation, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or stress (which causes overall muscle tightness in the face). Treatments may range from simple lifestyle changes and administration of anti-inflammatory medications to surgery. Surgery is usually reserved as an option of last resort when non-surgical therapies have failed.