No not your knees or your hips, your jaw joints also known as Temporomandibular Joints or TMJ. These joints are located just in front of the ears and they allow us to eat, chew, swallow and talk. The Temporomandibular Joints are very unique in that they are made up of a ball and socket with a special cartilage disk that sits in between. There also is a sling of important muscles surrounding the joints and they allow the joints to provide function.
Pain and dysfunction of the joints is some times called Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMD. Temporomandibular joint disorder is a term used to describe a range of conditions that can affect the joints. Myofacial pain syndrome is a term that describes pain and dysfuntion of the muscles surrounding the joints. Pain and dysfunction of the joints can be caused by a number of conditions.
The following are a list of causes of TMD:
Trauma to the face or Joints
Parafunctional Habits Bruxism or Clenching
Cysts or Tumors
A history of trauma, falls or injuries to the face or head can cause damage to the structures of the joints. The symptoms TMD can arise sometimes years after the trauma. The presence of arthritis in other joints of the body can also present itself in the jaw joints. Sometimes arthritis of the TMJ is the first sign of a generalized arthritis condition. Patients who grind or clench their teeth regularly can cause damage to the joints over time leading to the symptoms of TMD.
Some of the signs and symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder may include:
Pain in the joints, cheeks, ear or temple region
Pain on chewing
Inability to open wide
Locking of the jaw open or closed
Clicking or popping sounds in the joints
Swelling in area of the joints
If you have any of the above symptoms you should have an assessment done by your dentist or Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. Treatment for TMD may include medications, bite splints, physical therapy or even surgery. Arthroscopy or even complete joint replacements can be done in very severe cases. Quite often symptoms can be alleviated with conservative therapy alone.
To read more about TMD and it’s causes click the link here.