The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) works like a sliding hinge connecting each side of the jaw bone to the temporal bones of the skull. The bones and joint are separated by cartilage and shock-absorbing disks to help the jaw open and close smoothly. One joint sits on each side of the jaw, and if one of these joints or the muscles around them develop problems, one or both joints can develop temporomandibular joint dysfunction. TMJ dysfunction causes pain in the jaw, joint, or temporal bone areas of the skull.
Doctors and dentists are unsure exactly what causes TMJ dysfunction, and the cause appears to vary from person to person depending on their habits and medical background. TMJ dysfunction may occur if the shock-absorbing disk erodes partially or completely or moves out of proper alignment. People with arthritis may experience painful TMJ dysfunction due to cartilage damage. An injury to the joint or surrounding area from impact can also lead to TMJ dysfunction.
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