Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder) is a condition that causes frequent pain in the jaw joint. The pain occurs where the jaw meets the skull, just in front of the ear on each side of the face. Another term for this disorder is myofascial pain dysfunction of the jaw.
TMJ disorder is more common in women than men.
The cause of TMJ disorder is usually not known, but causes can include:
The most common symptom is pain in the jaw joint. The pain is usually dull but sometimes sharp. In most cases the pain is worse when you move your jaw, especially when you are chewing. If you are grinding your teeth at night, the pain may also be worse first thing in the morning.
Other possible symptoms are:
The painful symptoms of TMJ disorder can be similar to the symptoms of other conditions, such as ear problems. For this reason, you should see your healthcare provider about the pain.
Your healthcare provider will want to know when your jaw hurts and how long it has been hurting. He or she will ask if your jaw has been injured or if you have had dental work recently.
Your healthcare provider will examine your jaw for tenderness and check how it moves. An X-ray may be taken.
To help relieve your symptoms:
Other treatments may include taking muscle relaxants for a few days, using relaxation techniques, and learning ways to have less stress. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a physical therapist for treatment, such as massage and exercises that gently stretch the muscles and help with relaxation. If your pain is clearly related to stress, counseling and medicine can help.
If there is a problem with the way your teeth fit together when you bite, you may need to see a dentist.
Surgery is rarely necessary. Before you have jaw surgery, get a second opinion, preferably from a healthcare provider or dentist who has a lot of experience with this problem.
Because the cause of TMJ disorder is not known, healthcare providers do not know how to prevent it. But the following may help: