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Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) can develop from a variety of conditions, including degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, according to Merck Manuals. But what exactly is TMJ arthritis?

Connecting TMJ and Arthritis

When arthritis affects the jawbone, there’s a risk of the condition spreading to the TMJ. With osteoarthritis, the disease progresses by destroying cartilage, which can lead to changes in your bite. And if you’re wrestling with rheumatoid arthritis, usually affected most of your other joints by the time it reaches your jaw. According to Contemporary Clinical Dentistry, rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw can cause misalignment of the teeth. And in severe cases, the jaw bones are severely destructed, making it difficult for the patient to speak or eat.

Knowing the Symptoms of TMJ Arthritis

More than 50 million adults have diagnosed arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Many people with the condition will never develop TMJ, but if you do have arthritis and experience any of these common signs and symptoms of a TMJ disorder, it’s worth having a conversation with your doctor or dentist:

  • Tenderness or pain in the jaw
  • Pain and stiffness in one or both of the TMJ joints
  • Aching in and around your ears
  • Problems chewing food, or pain while doing so
  • Facial aches and pains
  • Locking of the jaw, which makes it difficult to open or close the mouth

Determining Susceptibility

Several factors increase your risk of developing TMJ disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic, including the various types of arthritis. For a patient diagnosed with RA, early treatment with approved prescription medication is important to manage the spread of the disease. This reduces the risk of it reaching the jaw and evolving into any form of TMD.

On the flip side, TMD caused by bruxism can develop into arthritis as a result of the damage caused to the temporomandibular joint. So, while the disease is not directly caused by the TMD, it may progress to TMJ arthritis.

Getting Treatment

Medical care for TMJ arthritis centres around managing the pain and symptoms, while simultaneously treating forms such as rheumatoid and infectious arthritis with medications. If you are struggling with stiffness or pain, especially if the root cause is osteoarthritis, you can achieve a degree of relief via jaw massage and TMJ exercises to reduce the pain.

Self-care includes using heat and ice packs, following a diet of soft foods and avoiding extreme jaw movements, such as yawning widely. In addition, it’s still important to maintain your oral care routine, even brushing, which can be painful if your arthritis is giving you trouble. You should also consider including a mouthwash to help support brushing and flossing.

Being diagnosed with TMJ arthritis doesn’t have to be devastating. With the right care and treatment, patients can keep TMJ disorders at bay live a comfortable, pain-free life.