Anatomy and How the jaw works

The following is a very basic overview of the anatomy of the TMJ and the biomechanics of how it moves. There are textbooks devoted solely to the TMJ with regards to anatomy, biomechanics, and pathology. Here is a short, easy to understand description of the major players in the TMJ and how it functions.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is made up of the articulation between the temporal bone of the cranial vault and the mandible. Between these bones is an articular disc (much like the meniscus of the knee) helping to provide for smooth jaw movement. Just like all synovial joints of the body there is a ligamentous capsule encasing the joint helping provide stability and keeping synovial fluid (which nourishes the cartilage lining the joint surfaces and the articular disc) within the joint. There are four (4) main muscles that control jaw movement:

  • Temporalis muscle
  • Masseter muscle
  • Medial Pterygoid muscle
  • Lateral Pterygoid muscle

The TMJ is a unique joint in that there are two components to its opening and closing. First, it has to glide forward before it can accomplish the hinging action to open the jaw. This unique way of opening and closing makes it quite easy for the TMJ to become dysfunctional causing abnormal opening and closing, resulting in TMJ pain. Additionally, the jaw does not simply open and close. It will also translate from side to side. So as you can see the jaw is quite dynamic in function. Dr. Cameron Weishaar and Dr. Troy Holder at Back In Motion Chiropractic have helped many people find relief with their jaw pain, and they can evaluate your jaw pain to find the cause of the problem. Call 509-443-3535 to schedule an appointment today!

Other TMJ Pages:

Related Conditions:

  • Vertigo
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)


Vizniak, N, Carnes M, et al. Quick Reference Evidence-Based Conditions Manual 3rd ed. Professional Health Systems 2009.

Sousa, Thomas. Differential Diagnosis and Management for the Chiropractor 4th Ed. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, LLC 2009.