The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is typically a sliding hinge on the sides of your jaw that links the skull to the jawbone. TMJ disorders, also known as TMD, are responsible for pain in jaw joints and muscles that control jaw movements. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is about half an inch in front of the center of your ear lobes. Studies by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research indicate that 11 to 12 million adult Americans have experienced pain in the temporomandibular joint regions. Here’s what you should know about the TMJ.
Facts About TMJ
Usually, each person has a maximum of two temporomandibular joints on the head, one on each side of the skull. The joint contains a small lifesaver-shaped disc that protects and enables joint movement. The TMJ moves between 2000 and 3000 times a day; that is, whenever someone chews, speaks, or swallows food. It’s categorized as the most frequently used body joint. To put TMJ movement into perspective, consider how many times you chew just one bite of food before swallowing it.
Unfortunately, like any other body joint, the TMJ can experience challenges like pain. The exact causes can be difficult to diagnose due to varied or a combination of factors such as jaw injuries, arthritis, or genetics. Even with the high frequency of use, not everyone experiences TMD or TMJ disorders. Some people habitually grind or clench their teeth but have never developed TMD; others with jaw pain tend to grind and clench their teeth, a condition known as bruxism.
TMJ Disorders (TMD)
The temporomandibular joint may not operate smoothly if malpositioned, damaged, or inflamed. It may produce “popping” or “clicking” sounds, especially when yelling, yawning, or when the mouth is widely opened. In extreme cases, TMD may lock your jaw, making it difficult to move. Opening your mouth wide or merely opening and closing your mouth may become an uphill task. If you experience pain that radiates from the jaw, spreads to the rest of the face, sharply increases when you open your jaw, or feels like it’s emanating from underneath your ears, you most likely have TMD.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) is a collection of various TMJ challenges caused by environmental and individual factors, which differ from person to person or case by case. Some common symptoms and signs of TMD include jaw-popping and clicking sounds when chewing or speaking, tenderness or pain around and within the TMJ, migraines, and headaches. Medical professionals specializing in the TMJ are well trained to diagnose and treat TMJ-related illnesses. If you are unsure of your TMJ health or exhibit TMD-related symptoms, contact TMJ Care today for the solutions you need.