How TMJ Causes Jaw Pain
The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull (cranium). You can feel it if you put your fingers in front of your ears and move your jaw. You may feel jaw pain here or elsewhere as a result of TMJ.
Inflammation of the ligaments that hold the temporal and mandibular bones together is the most common cause of pain at the TM joints. This inflammation is often caused by strain to the joint from grinding or clenching your jaws while you sleep, typically because of malocclusion, when your teeth don’t fit together quite right. The inflammation leads to the formation of a capsule around the joint, which is why the condition is caused capsulitis. Other times, inflammation may be due to trauma to the jaw joint, such as a car accident.
Other times, jaw pain is caused by a tearing of the ligament that tethers the articular disc between the temporal and mandibular bones. The disc acts both as a bearing to allow smooth movement of the bones, and also as a flexible cushion between them. When it’s out of place, you may experience joint popping or clicking as the displaced jaw joint suddenly pops into place. Untreated disc displacement will cause progressive damage, resulting in arthritis (inflammation of the joint) and destruction of the bones. If left too long, joint replacement surgery may be the only treatment option.