Overview of TMJ Disorders

Problems involving the temporomandibular joint are referred to as TMJ disorders (TMJD or TMD), TMJ syndrome, or simply TMJ. The temporomandibular joint connects the jawbone, or mandible, to the temporal bones, which are located on either side of the skull just in front of the ears. There are two of these joints—one on each side of the head.

A joint is where two bones meet. In the jaw, a disk of cartilage (called a meniscus or TMJ disk) cushions the jawbone and the temporal bone during the process of opening and closing the mouth. Muscles of the jaw, face, and neck, as well as nerves, blood vessels (e.g., veins, arteries), and ligaments surround the temporomandibular joint.

Temporomandibular joint disorders cause jaw pain and other symptoms. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), TMJ affects between 10 and 15 percent of people in the United States. TMJ is more common in women than in men and the most severe cases of TMJ pain often occur in women who are of childbearing age.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 18 Aug 2009

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015