Temporomandibular joint disc

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 10 Apr 2024

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disc (or meniscus) is made of fibrocartilage and divides the temporomandibular joint into two compartments. 

Gross anatomy

The disc is composed of fibrocartilage, with crimped collagen, thought to better absorb impact. It has a biconcave shape with a thicker periphery and attached at its periphery (except posteriorly) to the TMJ capsule (see below). There are anterior and posterior transverse thickenings of the disc, known as the anterior and posterior bands. Between the two is the intermediate zone.

The TMJ disc divides the joint into two compartments which separates translational and rotational motion:

  • superior discotemporal space: located above the disc, between it and the mandibular fossa and articular eminence of the temporal bone. Anterior translation during mouth opening occurs here.

  • inferior discomandibular space: located below the disc, between it and the mandibular condyle. Rotation occurs here (in absence of TMJ dysfunction).

  • anterior: capsule which blends with the insertion of the superior belly lateral pterygoid muscle, and attaches to the articular eminence of the temporal bone superiorly and neck of condyle inferiorly

  • medial: capsule

  • lateral: capsule

  • posterior: blends with the retrodiscal layer

Radiographic features


The anterior band and intermediate zone are low signal on T2/PD sequences, whereas the posterior band and retrodiscal zone are intermediate to hyperintense. The intermediate zone may have a higher T2 signal cleft within it as a normal variant.

The anterior band is well seen on both open and closed mouth oblique sagittal views (see: TMJ MRI protocol), whereas the posterior band and retrodiscal zone are best seen in closed mouth views. 

A normal disc is biconcave. In pathology this morphology alters, and the disc may appear

  • thickened and globular / lentiform

  • irregular

  • thinned

  • perforated

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