Jaw joint can lock up or cause pain

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone to the temporal bones of the skull. This joint allows for movement such as chewing, talking or yawning. Injury or pain in the joint can cause a temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD. (TMD is sometimes incorrectly referred to as “lockjaw” but in fact lockjaw refers to a potentially fatal bacterial infection called tetanus.) Collectively, temporomandibular disorders are often referred to as TMJ disorders.

Symptoms of TMD often include:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Pain around the ears
  • Difficulty opening and closing the mouth

These symptoms may be temporary or may develop into a long-term condition. TMD is often the result of an injury, such as a car accident in which your head is thrown back and forth (whiplash). It may also result from grinding or clenching of teeth, or it may develop along with arthritis. In some cases, poor posture may lead to TMD. The condition is more common in women than in men.

TMD is often diagnosed by a dentist who will perform a tooth exam and may recommend certain tests to confirm or rule out other conditions. These may include an X-ray, MRI or CT scan.

If TMD is diagnosed, treatment is usually nonsurgical, such as eating soft foods and icing the jaw and facial areas. Some patients who clench teeth may also benefit from stress-relieving techniques, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, meditation and yoga.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.