The temporomandibular joint is the joint of the jaw and is frequently referred to as TMJ. The TMJ is a bilateral synovial articulation between the mandible and temporal bone. The name of the joint is derived from the two bones which form the joint: the upper temporal bone which is part of the cranium (skull), and the lower jawbone or mandible. The temporomandibular is pronounced “tem-puh-roe-man-DIB-u-lur” joint. The acronym for it is TMJ. However, this acronym has also been used to refer to a group of health conditions related to your jaw. The easiest way to visualize it is that it acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. TMJ disorders — a type of temporomandibular disorder or TMD — can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.
Many people suffering from a TMJ disorder may not think of it unless a dentist diagnoses them with it. It can be a chronic pain issue with serious conditions that can cause much pain and discomfort. Untreated, this disorder can make it difficult to chew and even speak. Instead of suffering and being in agony, you can speak to your dentist.
Where is the Temporomandibular Joint Located?
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 easily speak, eat, yawn, and other normal daily functions – when the joint is healthy.
When it works the way it was created to, it enables you to talk, chew, and yawn. Individuals suffering from TMJ dysfunction commonly have problems with the joint and muscles around it. When this joint is inflamed or traumatized, it may cause :
- Pain that travels throughout the face, jaw, or neck region
- Stiff jaw muscles that limit normal functioning
- Limited movement, operation, or locking of the jaw
- Painful clicking or popping in the jaw when opened and closed
- A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together that increases pain
Understanding Your Temporomandibular Joint Anatomy
Jaw pain may go away with little or no treatment. Treatment may include simple things you can do yourself, such as eating soft foods or applying ice packs. It may also include pain medicines or devices to insert into your mouth. In very rare TMD cases, you might need surgery. Patients suffering with pain in their temporomandibular joint can be encouraged to know that most of the time TMJ issues are fixed without surgery.
In most cases, a person’s pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders are temporary. Commonly, when the Temporomandibular is inflamed or traumatized, it can be relieved with self-managed care or nonsurgical treatments. Surgery is typically a last resort after conservative measures have failed, but some people with TMJ disorders may benefit from surgical treatments. Conservative care has the best results for most people and starts with non-invasive, and no-opioid treatment to the jaw.
Symptoms that the Temporomandibular is Mis-functioning may include:
Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:
- Pain or tenderness in your jaw area
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints as you seek to move them
- Aching pain in and around your ear where it connects entities
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing tougher foods
- Aching facial pain in general without the ability to identify the exact location it is coming from
- Locking of your jaw joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
The best medical specialized person to help with Temporomandibular joint issues is an orofacial pain specialist. Once you have a clear diagnosis and the jaw pain has become more manageable, TMJ supervised jaw pain treatment integrated with self-care may provide the pain relief you need.
How does TMJ Affect the Trigeminal Nerve?
The trigeminal nerve directly connects with your TMJ, its branches, and the sensory fibers to the joint work in tandem. These nerve fibers transmit pain signals, temperature fluctuations, and touch signals from your TMJ to your brain. If your normal jaw functions lead to the abnormal activation of trigeminal nerve fibers, it may trigger pain and discomfort in your jaw, face, head, and neck area. This connection between the TMJ and the trigeminal nerve explains why TMJ disorders often manifest as clenching issues, facial pain, headaches, and referred pain to additional connected areas supplied by the trigeminal nerve.
Understanding the intricate and important relationship between your TMJ and trigeminal nerve will help you understand how diagnosing and treating conditions such as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) and orofacial pain requires a specialist. When facial pain specialists evaluate someone who suffers from a TMJ disorder, complex diagnostic procedures are typically used to determine if a muscle-related disorder exists. Currently, 30 types of TMJ disorders are recognized. Most often, when the Temporomandibular Joint Anatomy is assessed, a muscle-related issue is the cause. The most difficult to treat are neuropathic disorders.
What is the normal anatomy of a person’s temporomandibular joint?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), or jaw joint, is a synovial joint that empowers the complex movements necessary for normal daily activities. It is the joint between the mandible’s condylar head and the temporal bone’s mandibular fossa. It’s the hard-working joint between the mandible’s condylar head and the temporal bone’s mandibular fossa. This facial system is made up of the TMJ, teeth, and soft tissue that is involved in jaw movements.
This is how the National Institute of Health describes it:
”The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), also known as the mandibular joint, is an ellipsoid variety of the right and left synovial joints forming a bicondylar articulation. The common features of the synovial joints exhibited by this joint include a fibrous capsule, a disk, synovial membrane, fluid, and tough adjacent ligaments. Not only is the mandible a single bone but the cranium is also mechanically a single stable component; therefore, the correct terminology for the joint is the craniomandibular articulation. The term temporomandibular joint is misleading and seems to only refer to one side when referring to joint function. Magnetic resonance imaging has been shown to accurately delineate the structures of the TMJ and is the best technique to correlate and compare the TMJ components such as bone, disk, fluid, capsule, and ligaments with autopsy specimens.” – Anatomy of the temporomandibular joint
TMJ disorders affecting a person’s temporomandibular joint, which is located on each side of your head in front of your ears, involves a soft cartilage disk. This disk acts as a cushion between the bones of the joint so the joint can move smoothly and pain-free. When a person’s temporomandibular joint anatomy fails to function normally, contact an orofacial pain specialist as soon as possible.