Temporomandibular (TM) disorder

Temporomandibular (TM) disorder is a condition in which a person feels pain and discomfort in the muscles and joints that connect the lower jawbone (mandible) to the skull. These flexible muscles and joints are felt right in front of the ears and are needed to talk, chew, swallow, and yawn.

The most common cause of TM disorder is tension in the muscles that control the jaw, such as from clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth. TM disorder can also result from a joint problem present at birth, injury, or arthritis.

Common symptoms of TM disorder include:

  • Pain on one or both sides of the jaw when opening the mouth, chewing, or yawning.
  • Headaches.
  • Painful clicking, popping, or grating sensations when opening the jaw.
  • An inability to open the jaw wide.
  • Locking of the jaw in an open or closed position.

Treatment for TM disorder may include rest, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy. In some cases, splints or bite blocks might be used for a short period of time. Surgery or dental work are rarely necessary.

Last Updated: January 13, 2010

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Steven K. Patterson, BSc, DDS, MPH - Dentist

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