Simply stated, the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull. More specifically, they are the joints that slide and rotate in front of each ear, and that consist of the mandible (the lower jaw) and the temporal bone (the side and base of the skull). According to the American Dental Association, the TMJ are among the most complex joints in the body. These joints, along with several muscles, allow the mandible to move up and down and side to side. When the mandible and the joints are properly aligned, smooth muscle actions, such as chewing, talking, yawning, and swallowing, can take place. When these structures (muscles, ligaments, jaw bone, mandible, TMJ) are not aligned, nor synchronized in movement, several problems may occur.
Most oral health professionals will agree that the primary cause of this disorder is excessive strain on the muscle group that controls chewing, swallowing, and speech. This strain may be a result of bruxism (incessant clenching of the teeth), or from physical or mental stress. These factors may be the cause, in most cases, or may aggravate an existing condition of TMD.
Specific treatment for TMD will be determined by your physician or dentist based on: