Background information

October 9, 2019

The temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) is located in front of the ear, where the skull and lower jaw meet. The joint allows the lower jaw (mandible) to move and function.

The joint itself is made up of two bones that are separated by a disc of cartilage. Ligaments and muscles surround the joint.

Problems with the jaw joint are very common, but typically only last a few months before getting better. In some instances, only the muscles are affected (myofacial pain dysfunction), whereas in others the cartilage and ligaments may also be at fault (internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint).

The most common symptoms are:

  • Joint noise, such as clicking, cracking, crunching, grating or
    popping
  • Pain, usually a dull ache in and around the ear. The pain may
    radiate, i.e. move forward along the cheekbone or downwards
    into the neck
  • Headache
  • Limited mouth opening

Most jaw joint problems are made worse by chewing and are aggravated at times of stress.

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Nicholas Lee: Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon, Sheffield UK