These can present as a clicking joint or locking of the joint. This is due to displacement of the cartilage within the joint. A displaced cartilage can cause a clicking joint and this is termed reducible displacement of the joint meniscus. Occasionally, the cartilage can become completely displaced and not reduce into position when the mouth is open. There is then no click in the joint but the patient presents with extreme limitation of opening of the mouth and pain. Investigation of jaw joint problems involves x-rays and occasionally MRI scans. Treatment consists of the use of appliances in order to decrease pain, injections into inflamed joints and occasionally surgery to reposition displaced cartilages and anchor them into position.
The temporomandibular joint can also be affected by arthritis. The muscles, which act on the jaw, can also become painful due to habits such as tooth grinding at night. These conditions can generally be treated with analgesia or suitable dental appliances.
Occasionally other conditions causing facial pain may masquerade as temporomandibular joint pain. Neurological conditions such as atypical facial pain, trigeminal neuralgia or cluster headaches affect the face and can cause severe pain. The commonest cause of facial pain, however, is toothache. Comprehensive investigation of facial pain therefore involves thorough clinical and radioligical dental examination and examination of the teeth, jaws and temporomandibular joints.