What is the Temporomandibular Joint?

The Temporomandibular Joint is commonly referred to as the TMJ, a joint that is located at the base of the skull in front of the ear and connects the mandible or the lower jaw and the maxilla or the upper jaw. The joint has an unusual structure comprising of a round protrusion of the lower jaw that sits on an indentation in the skull and a disc-like structure made of a soft bone known as cartilage that is found in between the two bones popularly known as the articular disc. The three parts of the Temporomandibular Joint are embraced together by the ligaments that arise from various part of the neck and head to support the jaw and help in its movements. The movement of the jaw is further helped by several muscles that are connected to those ligaments. Any problem that occurs in the joint and it's movement is termed as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.

The TMJ works in two particular ways. In the first place, it helps to open and close the mouth just like a hinge supports a door to open and close. The second function is that it helps to move the jaws in the downward and forward direction. It helps the jaws to slide backward and forward and side to side for singing, eating, yawning and common actions like these.

The Temporomandibular Joint is prone to damage like any other joint of the body. It can be fractured or become sore. A fracture is rare but the articular disc can be displaced. This may cause severe pain and swelling and limits the movement of the lower jaw. The pain radiate to the Neck area and head. Pain may sometimes arise in the joint from the surrounding ligaments or the teeth themselves. Improper alignments of your teeth or the jaws, Grinding of Teeth are other common causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders. TMD is a very rare condition, unlike other joints. It occurs rarely unlike knee, hip and arthritis pain. One must be aware of the symptoms of this disorder, so that early steps can be taken to cure the problem. The symptoms of TMD include bad headaches which may seem like a migraine pain are the most common symptoms. Headaches are accompanied with sharp earache. Patients often face clicking and popping sensations when they open or close their mouth. A strong pain is felt when one tries to open their mouth wide or yawns or open their mouth to eat. This stinging pain can be a cause of TMD. The jaws may get locked or stuck due to TMD. However, it is best advised to consult a doctor to get the symptoms examined and get treatment done immediately. Since these symptoms could also indicate other oral problems, a dentist may guide the best by going through a patient's medical history.

Authored By : Dr. Rajesh Raveendranathan

  • Bangalore
  • Delhi



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