Temporomandibular joint

In anatomy, the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the two joints connecting the jawbone to the skull. It is a bilateral synovial articulation between the temporal bone of the skull above and the mandible below; it is from these bones that its name is derived. This joint is unique in that it is a bilateral joint that functions as one unit. Since the TMJ is connected to the mandible, the right and left joints must function together and therefore are not independent of each other.[1]

Joints connecting the jawbone to the skull
“TMJ” redirects here. For other uses, see TMJ (disambiguation).
Temporomandibular joint

The temporomandibular joint is the joint between the mandible and the temporal bone of the skull.

The joint seen from the inner surface.
Artery Superficial temporal artery
Nerve Auriculotemporal nerve, masseteric nerve
Latin Articulatio temporomandibularis
Acronym(s) TMJ
MeSH D013704
TA98 A03.1.07.001
TA2 1622
FMA 54832
Anatomical terminology

Skull of a sheep. Temporal bone (Os temporale) coloured. Line: Tympanicum: articular face for temporomandibular joint; arrow: external acoustic pore.

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The main components are the joint capsule, articular disc, mandibular condyles, articular surface of the temporal bone, temporomandibular ligament, stylomandibular ligament, sphenomandibular ligament, and lateral pterygoid muscle.

The articular capsule (capsular ligament) is a thin, loose envelope, attached above to the circumference of the mandibular fossa and the articular tubercle immediately in front; below, to the neck of the condyle of the mandible.

The unique feature of the temporomandibular joint is the articular disc. The disc is composed of dense fibrocartilagenous tissue that is positioned between the head of the mandibular condyle and the mandibular fossa of the temporal bone. The temporomandibular joints are one of the few synovial joints in the human body with an articular disc, another being the sternoclavicular joint. The disc divides each joint into two compartments, the lower and upper compartments. These two compartments are synovial cavities, which consist of an upper and a lower synovial cavity. The synovial membrane lining the joint capsule produces the synovial fluid that fills these cavities.[2]

The central area of the disc is avascular and lacks innervation, thus getting its nutrients from the surrounding synovial fluid. In contrast, the posterior ligament and the surrounding capsules along have both blood vessels and nerves. Few cells are present, but fibroblasts and white blood cells are among these. The central area is also thinner but of denser consistency than the peripheral region, which is thicker but has a more cushioned consistency. The synovial fluid in the synovial cavities provides nutrition for the avascular central area of the disc. With age, the entire disc thins and may undergo the addition of cartilage in the central part, changes that may lead to impaired movement of the joint.[2] The synovial membrane covers the inner surface of the articular capsule in the TMJ, except for the surface of the articular disc and condylar cartilage.[3]

The lower joint compartment formed by the mandible and the articular disc is involved in rotational movement—this is the initial movement of the jaw when the mouth opens. The upper joint compartment formed by the articular disc and the temporal bone is involved in translational movement—this is the secondary gliding motion of the jaw as it is opened widely. The part of the mandible which mates to the under-surface of the disc is the condyle and the part of the temporal bone which mates to the upper surface of the disk is the articular fossa or glenoid fossa or mandibular fossa.

The articular disc is a fibrous extension of the capsule in between the two bones of the joint. The disc functions as articular surfaces against both the temporal bone and the condyles and divides the joint into two sections, as already described. It is biconcave in structure and attaches to the condyle medially and laterally. The anterior portion of the disc splits in the vertical dimension, coincident with the insertion of the superior head of the lateral pterygoid. The posterior portion also splits in the vertical dimension, and the area between the split continues posteriorly and is referred to as the retrodiscal tissue. Unlike the disc itself, this piece of connective tissue is vascular and innervated, and in some cases of anterior disc displacement, the pain felt during movement of the mandible is due to the condyle compressing this area against the articular surface of the temporal bone.

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