The Temporomandibular Joint is the joint connecting the jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone).
The two bones are held together and function via a complex group of muscles, ligaments and other soft tissue. The temporal bone has a concavity call the glenoid fossa in which the head of the jawbone (the condyle) sits. A cartilage disccalled the articular disc separates the two bones. The articular disc slides in conjunction with the mandible to provide smooth quiet movement andacts as a cushion against heavy forces generated by the strong jaw muscles. Theright and left TMJ joints do not act as a separate joints, but must move in coordination with one another.
The TMJ joints are considered the most complex joints in the human body because they must provide for rotational movements, sliding movements and an infinite range of combined movements and functions, unlike any other joint in the body.
The lower jaw (Mandible) has a relationship to the upper jaw (Maxilla). If this relationship is altered, the muscles of mastication (chewing muscles) go into spasm. This causes the muscles that have the same nerve intervention to also go into spasm. The resulting stresses may radiate throughout the head, neck, and even involve the back. The pain may be constant or intermittent, lasting minutes, hours, days, or even years. Many patients describe the pain as a migraine headache. Eventually a patient may demonstrate clicking, grating, snapping, or popping sounds in the joint.