At any given time, anywhere between five and twelve percent of the population is affected by temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ disorder). This is an inflammation of the one or both of the joints connecting the jawbone to the skull. It is characterized by “popping” or “clicking” sounds when opening and closing the mouth, and may or may not be painful.
The exact causes of TMJ disorder are not clearly known. The condition is often accompanied by bruxism (grinding the teeth while sleeping), but scientists are unsure which is the cause and which is the symptom. Many people incorrectly associate TMJ disorder with ear pain, since the TMJ itself is located directly in front of the ear. As a result, many sufferers mistakenly see an audiologist before a neuromuscular specialist.