TMJ is a very complicated condition that we have had a lot of difficulty pinning down, and we have determined that it’s really a number of related conditions that have overlapping causes and create similar symptoms. As a shorthand, we often describe it as an imbalance in the jaw system, but there are many potential forms that imbalance could take.
One of the earliest and most common types of TMJ is a simple muscle imbalance. When your muscles are trying to find a restful position but they can’t either because of the configuration of your teeth, the state of the jaw, or even conflicts with any of the other muscles that have to work with each other to control the jaw.
Another type occurs when the cushioning discs inside the temporomandibular joints become displaced. When this occurs, the jaw may not open and close smoothly—there may be irregular motions and you may experience popping and clicking. The jaw may even stick so that you can’t open or close it, or may have very limited movement.
Finally, TMJ can be related to pinched or pressured nerves in the jaw or face. There are many nerves that go through or past the jaw. They often intertwine with jaw muscles and thread into the bones of the temporomandibular joint. Pressure on these nerves can cause many types of pain and even related symptoms like tingling or numbness.