Difficulty in opening the mouth can be a significant problem in some patients with TMJ syndromes. The temporo-mandibular joint is restricted in its full range of motion as the muscles attempt to open the mouth. Because of poor alignment of the jaw or due to deterioration of the jaw joint, barriers prevent the swiveling action of the joint to glide all the way open. As a result, it is difficult to fully open the mouth.
When the temporo-mandibular joint is out of position and asymmetric, the jaw may reach its maximal movement on one side before the other side can. This causes the entire mouth to open less wide. In arthritis conditions or with longstanding TMJ disorders, the jaw joint may become damaged. Swelling, inflammation, loss of cartilage within the jaw joint, and hardening of the joints’ ligaments all can reduce the mobility of the temporo-mandibular joint in TMJ.
If this is part of a TMJ syndrome, then other symptoms are usually present. These most commonly include pain in the jaw and surrounding areas, noises with jaw movement, and locking of the jaw. Jaw deformities alone can exist and cause limited opening of the mouth without the presence of TMJ syndrome itself. However, pre-existing deformities of the jaw can develop into TMJ and should be evaluated. Problems that often led to jaw opening limitations like trauma can be the same causes of TMJ disorders. Therefore, assessment is recommended for both primary treatment and for prevention.
Other TMJ Symptoms: