Causes of TMJ disorder

There are several TMJ disorders, any one of which can result from multiple causes.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), though trauma to the jaw or jaw joint – such as a jolting injury to the head, face or neck – sometimes plays a role in TMD, in most instances the cause is unknown.

The most common factor contributing to TMD is a bite problem affecting the joint itself. Interferences in the structure of individual teeth may force displacement of the lower jaw, leading the muscles to reposition the joints out of their sockets to force the upper and lower teeth to fit together. Also, wear and tear on the teeth caused by aging, teeth grinding and clenching, or activities outside of normal function – called parafunction – may cause uneven surfaces on the teeth, leading to interferences in the bite and improper jaw closure.

Anatomical factors within the joint or surrounding muscles (such as the presence of scar tissue) also may interfere with the bite and cause TMD. Some TMJ disorders may be caused by arthritis and dislocation, while other instances may result from disease. For example, low-level infections and auto-immune diseases are among the possible causes of TMD noted by the TMJ Association. In addition, some people may be genetically predisposed to TMD.

However, the AGD notes that some mental or physical activities that trigger stress or induce parafunction may cause or aggravate TMD, since most of the pain associated with the condition results from overusing the jaw muscles (such as when clenching or grinding the teeth).
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