Topic Overview

The articular disc provides a cushion between the ball and socket of
the temporomandibular (TM) joint. It is very common for
the TM joint to painlessly click or pop while opening or closing. These sounds
are related to the ball (condyle) of the joint passing over the disc as the jaw
opens or closes. Such painless noises are not a cause for concern.

As a result of joint stress or injury to the jaw joint, the disc and
its band of connective tissue can become stretched out, allowing the disc to
shift out of its normal position (disc displacement). As the joint moves, the
disc can:

  • Become stuck in front of the condyle, locking the
  • Fold over itself. Sometimes the condyle then presses on soft
    tissue that is normally protected by the disc, causing pain and

Often treatment of a displaced disc will also help relieve the
accompanying muscle tension or spasm. Splint therapy temporarily creates space
between the TM joint’s ball and socket, allowing the disc to gradually return
to its original position.

Surgery is rarely appropriate but may be used in severe cases
involving disc tearing or chronically disabling disc displacement.

The pain and dysfunction related to a displaced or damaged disc are
temporomandibular disorder (TMD) symptoms. But not
all TMDs involve disc displacement. Some TMDs are exclusively


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofMay 7, 2017

Current as of:
May 7, 2017