The temporomandibular joint is what allows us to eat, laugh, drink, talk, blow, bite and yawn – it is the joint that joins the lower jaw or maxilla with the skull shaping our lower facial third and allowing the movement of the jaw itself. Other joints of our body (shoulder, knees …) are double but both joints TMJ are joined by the jaw itself and have to move together; for example, the two knees are separated and can perform different movements to the same time independently of each other. The two TMJs cannot move separately, they have to do it in unison and in a coordinated way – this complicates their pathology.
It is an anatomically complex joint. It has an intra-articular meniscus that also moves with the mandibular movements, ligaments with intra-articular and extra-articular insertion, musculature that provides movement and joint capsule. This variety of elements makes it easy to cause pathologies and pains. They are not always easy to locate and diagnose.
Do you feel sharp and stabbing pain in the mouth?
The temporomandibular joint dysfunction may cause joint pain and pain in the muscles that control jaw movement.
TMJ or TMJ joint
What is the temporomandibular joint?
The temporomandibular joint is one of the most complex joints in the body. As with any other joint in the body, the TMJ joins different bones, i.e. the temporal bone and the jaw, on both sides of the head. They are two joints that work synchronized with each other. The main function of the TMJ is to guide and limit the movements of the lower jaw, since this joint is involved in various facial actions, such as phonation, communication, chewing, swallowing and yawning. The TMJ consists of three anatomical structures, the jaw condyle, the glenoid cavity and the temporal bone condyle. Between both condyles we find an articular disc or intraarticular meniscus. Another important part of this joint is the temporomandibular ligament, which has the function of preventing the condyle from moving excessively. Thanks to the TMJ we can perform three types of movements with our jaw:
Lateral movement: in this movement the jaw moves alternately to the right or to the left. Movement up or down: this is a very important movement since it is the one that we use the most with this joint. It allows us to articulate the words and other essential activities in daily life, such as to chew. With it we open and close our mouths. Protrusion and retrusion movement: this is the movement that is performed in the horizontal plane, when the jaw moves forward keeping in contact with the upper jaw. It is a movement that in humans is quite limited, but that in other mammals such as rodents is very important.
Symptoms of temporomandibular dysfunction
The most frequent symptoms of TMJ are:
- Bruxism, which is the tendency of certain people to grit their teeth or make them grind by sliding or rubbing their teeth back and forth one on the other.
- Jaw pain
- Feeling of jaw fatigue
- Difficulty opening the mouth, cracking in the jaw
- Bad occlusion problems
- Headache, neck or back
- Jaw lock
- Tooth wear