TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is the joint between our temporal bones and mandible. Each of us has two, one on the left side and one on the right side. These joints allow us to open and close our mouths to allow for talking, chewing, and yawning, among other things. Between our temporal bone and mandible sits a little disc that cushions the joint when we bite down.
In about 5-12% of the population, these joints become painful and limit a person’s ability to perform the usual tasks these joints are designed to do. Sometimes this pain can be accompanied by headaches and neck pain and can even include a clicking sound when opening and closing the mouth. Problems in the TMJ are most commonly related to the joint itself, the muscles that help the joint move, and/or the disc that sits between the mandible and temporal bones.
Fortunately, physical therapy has been shown to be an effective strategy to help people improve their TMJ pain. This may or may not also include appliance therapy from your dentist.
The bottom line:
Jaw pain is fairly common in the general population (this means you are not alone).
Physical therapy can be helpful at improving jaw pain (this means you don’t have to experience TMJ pain for the rest of your life).