Your jaw is connected to your temporal bones in your face by your temporomandibular joint. This joint lets you move your jaw from side to side and up and down so that you are able to yawn, chew, and talk. Any problem with your jaw and the muscles that help control it is often referred to as TMJ.
Although it is not known what causes TMJ, symptoms of this joint disorder can arise when problems with the parts of the joint itself develop or if issues with the muscles of the jaw occur. For example, you might develop TMJ if:
- You injure your jaw or any of the muscles in your neck and/or head
- You put significant pressure on your jaw joint because you grind or clench your teeth consistently
- The disc or soft cushion between the socket and ball of your joint moves
- You develop arthritis in your jaw joint
- You experience significant stress, which causes you to tighten your jaw muscles or clench your teeth
Just as there are many suspected causes of TMJ, there are also many symptoms of it. For instance, you might have TMJ if you experience pain in your neck and shoulders, jaw joint area, or face when you open your mouth wide, speak, or chew. You may also have TMJ if you can’t quite open your mouth all the way or if you experience popping, clicking, or grating sounds when you try to move your jaw.