Signs and Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

dental exam

The Temporomandibular Joint (often referred to as the TMJ), is the joint that connects your jaw to the temporal bones in your skull. You have one joint on either side of your head, just in front of the ears. TMJ disorder, which is also sometimes called TMD, occurs when this joint becomes damaged or injured in some way. This can happen as a result of a trauma, or due to developing problems within the joint itself.

Research shows that as many as 30% of adults will experience TMJ disorder at some point during their lifetime, and although it is not usually a serious condition, the symptoms can have a significant impact on our ability to use our mouth and jaw properly. This can severely affect our day to day life. For example, some people with TMJ disorder will experience lockjaw when they yawn, which is painful and can be embarrassing.

What causes TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint works by combining a hinge action and a sliding motion at the same time. This movement relies on a small disc that separates the cartilage-covered bones. TMJ disorder can be caused by erosion or damage to this disc or occur if it moves out of its proper alignment.

Other possible causes for TMJ disorder include:

- Persistent clenching of the jaw (often a result of anxiety or stress)

- Grinding of the teeth (subconscious or while you are asleep, a condition called bruxism)

- Osteoarthritis that causes wear and tear to the jawbone

- An uneven bite which can cause an imbalance of pressure when using the jaw

- Injury to the jaw as a whole

- An infection in the bone

- Some medical conditions including gout and fibromyalgia

Unfortunately, some sufferers will experience TMJ disorder without ever discovering the underlying cause.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

There are a variety of symptoms associated with TMJ disorder, and it is possible for a sufferer to experience just one or a combination of them. Signs that typically indicate a problem with the temporomandibular joint include:

- Clicking, popping or grinding sounds when chewing, talking or opening and closing the mouth/jaw.

- Pain or difficulty in opening the mouth. It could feel stuck, heavy or stiff to move.

- Pain in and around the jaw. This could range from short, acute pain to persistent aching.

- Recurring headaches, blurred vision or migraine.

- Recurring earache, tinnitus, other strange sounds or a sensation of a foreign object stuck in the ear canal.

- Pain in the area in front of the ear which can spread outwards to the cheeks, temple and neck.

- Swelling of the jaw or face.

- Pain that radiates into the neck and upper back.


If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, you could be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder. If this is the case, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert dental team who will be delighted to assist you.