Jaw pain or TMD (Temporomandibular disorder) can be caused by issues with the jaw bone, disc, or muscles.
The temporal bone (the socket part) and the mandible (the ball part) can develop degenerative diseases that are very similar to other joints in the body such as the knee.
- Osteoarthritis: This is a degenerative condition caused by use and wear over time. The cartilage which separates the two bones wears away and causes the bones to rub together. This creates inflammation, pain, damage to the bones, and loss of motion.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: The outcomes are similar to osteoarthritis, but instead of wear causing the damage, the joint is attacked by your own body's immune system.
- Post-traumatic osteoarthritis: This can happen rapidly or slowly following a traumatic injury to the lower jaw.
A normal TMJ joint has a disc of cartilage that separates the two bones of the joint and allows the bones to slide easily against each other. However, the disc can become dislodged, inflamed, or stuck in place.
- Signs and symptoms of disc-related issues include popping, clicking, lockjaw, and pain when opening and closing your jaw.
Each side of your face has 4 main muscles that work together to open and close your jaw. They are the temporalis, masseter, lateral pterygoid and medial pterygoid.
- These muscles can become inflamed, injured, or damaged.
- Muscle pain is often mistaken for pain in the TMJ itself. It is important to properly diagnose the issue to determine the proper treatment.
- If you have muscle inflammation or damage, opening or closing your mouth can become difficult or painful.
- Muscle issues can also be mistaken for headaches, especially if the headaches are most severe in the mornings.