How do the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) work?

Two joints and several jaw muscles make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak or swallow. They include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone -- the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints called the temporomandibular joints or "TMJ."

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are among the most complex joints in the body. Located on each side of the head, they work together to make many different movements, including a combination of rotating and gliding actions used when chewing and speaking.

Several muscles also help open and close the mouth. They control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward, and side-to-side. Both TM joints are involved in these movements. Each TM joint has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely and rotate or glide. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.

Continue Learning about Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)

Is temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJ) serious?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
TMJ is generally not serious. For most people, the pain and other symptoms associated with TMJ can b...
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What can cause joint popping?
John Van der Werff, DDSJohn Van der Werff, DDS
It is usually caused by a dislocation of the disc that sits between the lower part of the jaw called...
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How common is temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJ)?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders are quite common. It is estimated that between 10 and 3...
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How are temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disease and dystonia related?
Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF)Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF)
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disease is an arthritic condition, not a dystonia. Oromandibular dysto...
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