Your Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of each ear. It lets you move your jaw up and down and side to side, so you can talk, chew, and yawn.

Problems with your jaw and the muscles in your face that control it are known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD). But you may hear it wrongly called TMJ, after the joint.

Temporomandibular Disorders: What you can do

Most people with TMD have relatively mild or periodic symptoms which may improve on their own within weeks or months with simple home therapy. Self-care practices, such as eating soft foods, applying ice or moist heat, and avoiding extreme jaw movements (such as wide yawning, loud singing, and gum chewing) are helpful in easing symptoms.

Studies show the safety and effectiveness of most treatments for jaw joint and muscle disorders and experts strongly recommend using the most conservative, reversible treatments possible. Conservative treatments such as an oral appliance do not invade the tissues of the face, jaw, or joint, or involve surgery. Reversible treatments do not cause permanent changes in the structure or position of the jaw or teeth. Even when TM disorders have become persistent, most patients still do not need aggressive types of treatment. An oral appliance is the conservative approach to relieving symptoms associated with TMD/TMJ.

Symptoms associated with TMD/TMJ

Pain areas: in the face, ear, jaw, mouth, neck

Pain types: can be chronic

Mouth: difficulty chewing or toothache

Joints: crackles or tenderness

Also common: headache, joint locking, or muscle spasms