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Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the area directly in front of the ear on either side of the head where the upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) meet.
Temporomandibular Joint: The diarthrosis between the temporal bone and mandible that includes the condyloid process below separated by an articular disk from the glenoid fossa above and that allows for the opening, closing, protrusion, retraction, and lateral movement of the mandible.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders: A group of symptoms that may include pain or tenderness in the temporomandibular joint or surrounding muscles, headache, earache, neck, back, or shoulder pain, limited jaw movement, or a clicking or popping sound in the jaw and that are caused either by dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (as derangement of the articular disk) or another problem (as spasm or tension of the masticatory muscles) affecting the region of the temporomandibular joint.

Temporomandibular joint disorders include a range of problems related to this joint.

Signs of TMJ disorders include:

Bruxism: The habit of unconsciously gritting or grinding the teeth especially in situations of stress or during sleep.
  • Bruxism
  • Wear of the occlusal surfaces of the teeth due to tooth grinding
  • Joint sounds (clicking and crepitus)
  • Limited mandibular opening.

Pain, including TMJ pain or headache, may occur but is not always present.

Referral to a dentist or other professional knowledgeable in treating TMJ disorders is appropriate.

Treatment is usually initiated when pain is present. Options include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication
  • Soft diet
  • Warm compresses
  • Occlusal bite guards
  • Counseling
  • Physical therapy
Fast Facts
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders increase in prevalence with advancing age.
Symptoms of a TMJ disorder include bruxism, enamel wearing, pain, joint clicking, and limited jaw opening.
The efficacy of TMJ disorder treatments is not well-established in children.
TMJ disease in children is often overdiagnosed and over-treated.
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