The temporomandibular joint
The bone that connects the mandible to the temporal bone is called the temporomandibular bone. It’s the much smaller bone on the side of your face, beneath your ears. You can actually feel it move when you bite down and chew.
There are rounded edges (condyles) on the mandible that make jaw movements smooth and painless by sliding back and forth, absorbing any impact your jaw endures while you chew. The idea is that this whole process should work very smoothly, like a well-oiled machine—but in cases of TMD and TMJ, you may experience popping, pressure, and/or pain.
Temporomandibular disorders tend to fall under these major categories:
- Myofascial: Pain in the muscles of the face and as low as the shoulders, caused by TMD
- Internal derangement: Joint or jaw displacement, dislocation, or derangement
- Degenerative joint: This condition is often associated with Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
It’s possible for someone to experience each of these conditions at the same time.
Luckily, jaw pain isn’t necessarily a sure sign of a serious problem, or that TMD/TMJ is present. Experiencing discomfort is often temporary and shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. A small portion of those who experience pain go on to experience the long-term effects of TMD. In any case, if pain persists, contact your dentist, and let them know about the pain.