ZocdocAnswersIf your jaw cramps does it mean you have TMJ?

Question

If your jaw cramps does it mean you have TMJ?

I heard that TMJ makes you not be able to open your mouth. Sometimes my jaw cramps up and it doesn't work right and feels funny for a couple days after that. Is that the same thing? Do I have TMJ?

Answer

The TMJ (TemporoMandibular Joint) is a relatively complex joint. The mandible (lower jaw) not only has a hinge-like function with minor opening and closing, but it will also allow a sliding action with very wide opening. This can be felt if you put your fingers on the joint (underneath your ear canal on your cheek) and open your jaw slowly, then very wide. Typically people with TMJ disorders have pain with chewing, decreased range of motion of the joint, crepitus within the joint, or repeat subluxation. The pain with movement and chewing is usually from an inflammatory process (like arthritis). Decreased range of motion can be from scarring, or wearing of the hyaline cartilage within the joint. Crepitus is the medical term for the "pop" or "click", even "crunching" that can happen with joint movement if the joint doesn't move smoothly. Lastly subluxation is a term that refers to a joint becoming dislocated, and sliding back into the joint capsule. This can be painful, and leads to inflammation that can take a few weeks to go back to normal. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "my jaw cramps". That terminology makes me think of muscular problems which wouldn't necessarily be TMJ. But if you are describing subluxation, it may be related to the actual joint. I recommend that you make an appointment with a TMJ specialist (typically a trained dentist) to have your TMJ evaluated. They should be able to help determine what is going on. If you don't know of one, start with your general dentist and see if they can refer you if they can't tell you with confidence what they think if going on. Best of luck.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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