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Temporomandibular Joint Disease

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your mandible (lower jaw) to your skull. The joint can be found on both sides of your head in front of your ears. It allows your jaw to open and close, letting you to speak and eat.


The abbreviation “TMJ” has also been used to refer to a group of health conditions related to your jaw. However, this is becoming more commonly abbreviatedTrusted Source as “TMD” or “TMJD” to distinguish the temporomandibular joint itself from TMJ disorders.

These disorders can cause:

  • Tenderness at the joint

  • Facial pain

  • Difficulty moving the joint


According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial ResearchTrusted Source, as many as 10 million people suffer from TMJ disorders. They are more common among women than men.

These disorders are treatable, but they have many different possible causes. This can make diagnosis difficult.

What are the symptoms of TMJ disorders?

The symptoms of TMJ disorders depend on the severity and cause of your condition. The most common symptom of TMJ disorders is pain in the jaw and surrounding muscles.

According to 2021 researchTrusted Source, other symptoms typically associated with these disorders include:

  • pain that can be felt in the face or neck

  • stiffness in the muscles of the jaw

  • limited movement of the jaw

  • locking of the jaw

  • clicking or popping sound from the TMJ site

  • dental issues, such as the wearing down of teeth

  • tinnitus (ringing in the ear)

  • vertigo

  • headaches

  • shift in the jaw, changing the way that the upper and lower teeth align (called malocclusion)

Symptoms may show up on just one side of the face or both.

What causes TMJ disorders?

In many cases, it’s not known what causes TMJ disorders. Trauma to the jaw or joint may play a role. There are also other health conditions that may contribute to the development of TMJ disorders.

These include:

  • arthritis

  • erosion (wearing away) of the joint

  • habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth

  • structural jaw issues present at birth

  • growth disorders

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