I have heard of TMJ but I have never heard of arthritis in the TMJ. Is this really possible? I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2012 and my dentist seems to thinks it’s in my jaw joint. My jaw hurts and seems to be swollen sometimes but it’s not clicking or locking on me. Also can you tell me if there is any way to verify if this is really the case? – Dorcas
Dorcas – Basically, wherever there is a joint in the body, if you have arthritis, it can affect the joint. Although the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) isn’t the most common place for rheumatoid arthritis, 17% of adults and children are affected by it.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease that causes chronic inflammation and pain. So when the TMJ is affected, the symptoms are jaw pain and inflammation, restricted jaw opening, painful chewing, and in children, a malformed bite can occur. These symptoms can occur without the typical TMJ symptoms of a clicking, popping, or locking jaw.
A customized mouthguard will be recommended. Wearing the mouthguard while you sleep can protect the jaw muscles from teeth grinding, and possibly decrease pain in the joint. You may be advised to eat soft foods; avoid gum chewing and activities that may overwork the jaw muscles, such as loud singing or yawning; apply ice packs to the outside of your jaw; and perform exercises that gently stretch the jaw to help increase the range of movement.
If you want to confirm your dentist’s suspicion, you can receive a second opinion from a dentist who is trained to diagnose and treat TMJ. You can also schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist to get his or her opinion on whether not arthritis is causing your TMJ pain and discomfort.
This post is sponsored by Colorado Springs dentist Dr. Joseph Rota.