TMJ Mechanics

The Temporomandibular joint is the most complicated joint in the human body and the issues associated with it are due largely to that complication. The TM joint allows for an incredible range of motion; the jaw can open and close, move forward and backwards and even shift side to side. It is used almost constantly when eating and speaking, making this joint extremely important. TMJ issues can cause difficulty eating and speaking as well as cause many other unpleasant symptoms.


The mandible, more commonly referred to as the lower jaw, connects to the skull just below and slightly in front of the ears. Two protrusions come up from the lower jaw near the skull, the coronoid process in front and the condylar process in the rear, closest to the ear. It is with the condyle that TMJ problems originate. But the joint is more than just bone, it is operated by jaw muscles. There are four primary jaw muscles that move the lower jaw and assist in speaking and chewing; the temporalis, masseter, lateral pterygoid and medial pterygoid. There is one set on each side of the face so that there are eight in total. Another muscle is important in this equation, the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM). This is a neck muscle that attaches just behind the TM joint, below the ear, and runs down the neck and forwards to the sternum.

The problems begin with a TM joint that does not align correctly with the skull. Certain jaw muscles work to correct the poor alignment of the joint but, unfortunately, are constantly working to do so. This constant correction overworks the muscles and eventually causes muscle spasms. Because of where the joints are located, these muscle spasms can cause a domino effect of problems. The temporalis muscle spreads out over your temples so when they are spasming it causes headaches. The muscles in the jaw spasming can cause significant facial pain and can lead to tooth grinding. The jaw joint’s malpositioning can lead to clicking and popping when the jaw opens and closes. If you are suffering from any of these TMJ symptoms, do not suffer in silence and do not wait to seek treatment. Even if you have been unsuccessfully treated for TMJ in the past, do not let it discourage you, it is possible to get relief from your unpleasant symptoms. TMJ treatment is not an instantaneous cure and can take devotion on the part of patient and the dentist alike.

© 2012  Dr Mark Padolsky - Atlanta TMJ Dentist  |  1624 Piedmont Avenue, NE

Atlanta, Georgia 30324  |  404-876-8123