The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects the lower jaw with the skull. This joint determines the movement and function of the lower jaw. The dentist or the oral and maxillofacial surgeon is responsible for dealing with all of the lower jaw malfunctions and issues, involving both soft tissue and the joint itself. The lower mandible joint is quite complex and its function is related to the presence of a harmonious relationship between the muscles that move the jaw, the ligaments, the teeth clamping together as well as the presence of a meniscus (articular disc) between the bone apex of the lower mandible on each side (condyle) and on the appropriately shaped surface of the skull (mandibular fossa).
Like all joints in the body, the temporomandibular joint is subject to wear and tear over time. Moreover, this joint is burdened by abnormal, inadvertent movements, such as tightening or grinding of the teeth. These movements can occur during sleep or even during the day, sometimes associated with periods of stress.
The end result is that a significant percentage of the population suffers from some degree of temporomandibular disorders at some stage of their life, which appears as joint pain, muscle pain, clicking sounds at chewing due to wrong disc motility, and/or failure to normally close the mouth.
The approach for treatment includes, as appropriate, simple dietary advice, physiotherapy, balancing of the mouth closure, and the manufacture of suitable bruxism guards for night or day use. In more advanced cases and rarely, an intervention may be required at the joint, either endoscopically or extremely rarely with open surgery.