Temporomandibular™ disorders is the name given to several problems with jaw movement and pain in and around the jaw joints.
You may also hear TM disorders called TMJ, TMD, or TM problems.
The jaw joints, or temporomandibular (TM) joints, connect the lower jawbone (mandible) to the skull. These flexible joints are used more than any other joint in the body. They allow the jaw to open and close for talking, chewing, swallowing, yawning, and other movements.
Many people have problems with jaw movement and pain in and around the jaw joints at some time during their lives. These joint and muscle problems are complex. So finding the right diagnosis and treatment of TM disorders may take some time.
TM disorders can affect the jaw and jaw joint as well as muscles in the face, shoulder, head, and neck. Common symptoms include joint pain, muscle pain, headaches, joint sounds, trouble with fully opening the mouth, and jaw locking.
In most cases, symptoms of TM disorders are mild. They tend to come and go without getting worse and usually go away without a doctor's care. About 65% to 95% of people who see a doctor when they first have symptoms will get better no matter what type of treatment they get.
About 12% of people who have TM disorders develop long-lasting (chronic) symptoms. Any chronic pain or difficulty moving the jaw may affect talking, eating, and swallowing. This may affect a person's overall sense of well-being.
The most common cause of TM disorder symptoms is muscle tension, often triggered by stress. When you are under stress, you may be in the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth. These habits can tire the jaw muscles and lead to a cycle of muscle spasm, tissue damage, pain, sore muscles, and more spasm.
TM disorders can start when there is a problem with the joint itself, such as:
Although there is no one way to identify a TM disorder, your doctor can most likely check your condition with a physical exam and by asking questions about your past health. In some cases, an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI is also used to check for bone or soft tissue problems related to symptoms of TM disorder.
TM disorder symptoms usually go away without treatment. Simple home treatment can often relieve mild jaw pain. Things you can do at first to reduce pain include: