What are the temporomandibular (tm) joints?

The temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your jaw to the side of your head. Place a finger just in front of one ear, and open and close your mouth. That movement you feel is your temporomandibular joint in action. The temporomandibular joint is essential in eating, talking, yawning, and other movements your mouth makes. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a common condition that produces pain in the jaw, headaches, and other symptoms.
The temporomandibular joints are among the most complex joints in the body.

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.” 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.
The temporomandibular joints are located on either side of the jaw (mandible), just below the temples. They are two of the most frequently used joints in the body. Without these joints, we would be severely hindered when talking, eating, yawning, or kissing. Any examination of the head and neck should include the temporomandibular joints.

(This answer provided for NATA by the Georgia College & State University Athletic Training Education Program.)

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