TMJ stands for temporal-mandibular joint. Temporal, in temple area of skull; mandibular, the mandible, or lower jaw; joint, where the head and jaw meet. Aside from the two bones that meet there is cartilage which buffers them and five muscles are involved in the area. Problems in this joint may be caused by a misalignment of the teeth, trauma, or excess muscle tension. If something goes wrong a good deal of trouble can result.
Problems in this area can cause:
- Trouble/soreness in opening and closing the mouth
- Clicking or popping of the jaw
- Pain in the jaw muscles
- Soreness in the area, sometimes extending to the face
Dental treatments for the condition can include moving teeth, (through orthodontics), polishing teeth to adjust the bite or night guards. There is no one solution that is right for all cases. Sometimes a plastic mouthpiece is used to prevent clenching or grinding that is contributing to the problem. If untreated and taken to extremes, surgery may be required to repair a badly damaged joint.