The symptoms of TMJD can be varied and complex. Some of the symptoms that a person with TMJD might experience include:
- Pain, including tenderness in the jaw, aching pain in or around the ear, aching facial pain or nearly constant pain. Pain may be present whether the temporomandibular joint is moving or not.
- Difficulty opening the mouth fully
- Difficulty or discomfort while chewing
- A clicking or popping sensation in the joint
- Locking of the joint that makes it hard to open or close the mouth
- Uncomfortable bite
- An uneven bite because one or more teeth are making contact with each other before the other teeth do.
Causes and Risk Factors
Anything that causes pain in any other joint of the body can be a factor in temporomandibular joint.
In a healthy joint, the ends of the bones are covered with smooth cartilage. This allows the bones to glide easily when the lower jaw is moved.
TMJD can happen due to wear and tear on the cartilage, arthritis, injuries, dislocations, structural problems in the joint, dental problems infections or tumors.
If there is a problem in the temporomandibular joint, a person may feel pain in the surrounding muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments. If the joint is inflamed, there may be pain even when the joint isn't moving.
The lower jaw has rounded ends that glide in and out of the joint socket when you talk, chew or yawn. (These are called the condyles.) They are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, which keeps the movement smooth.
TMJ disorders can occur from:
- Damage to the surfaces of the teeth due to neglect or injury
- Loose or lost teeth that have led to damage of the jawbone or poor alignment of the upper and lower jaws. This can affect the muscles of the jaw as well.
- Poor alignment of the teeth or jaw when biting down. This can cause sensitivity of the teeth as well as affecting the muscles and the temporomandibular joint.
- Overuse of the muscles of chewing. This may occur if a person chews gum continuously, bites fingernails or pencils, grinds the teeth, has a habit of clenching the jaw, biting the cheek or lip or thrusting the jaw out when speaking, exercising or other actions.
- The disk erodes or moves out of its proper place
- The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact
- The joint's cartilage is damaged by arthritis
- Trigger points in the muscle tissue that cause myofascial pain syndrome
- Infections deep in the jaw
Often, it isn't clear what is causing the TMJ symptoms.
TMJ disorders most commonly occur in women between the ages of 30 and 50.