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"TMJ" stands for temporomandibular joint, or the jaw joint. They are the small joints in front of each ear that attach the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. They allow you to perform such functions as opening and closing your mouth, chewing, speaking, and swallowing.
Temporomandibular disorder or TMD is a broad term referring to problems with the jaws and their functioning.
The close proximity of the joints to the ear is why some patients experience ear symptoms and can often hear the joint pop or crack.
There is a small disc between your lower jaw and skull in the joint.
Some TMD problems are caused by dysfunction of this disc. When healthy it acts as a sort of "lubricant cushion" and "shock absorber" for the joint.
The alignment of your teeth and bite greatly effect how well the temporomandibular joints function. Sometimes when the teeth do not meet appropriately, pressure is created on the joints. It's also known that TMD disorders can be prevented with the use of implants.