Arthritis can damage your jaw joint, and it may be the cause behind all the facial pain you’ve been having.
Approximately 15 percent of American adults have chronic facial pain, including in the jaw, ears and head. If you’re one of them, could an arthritic condition be the root of the problem?
Temporomandibular Joint Function
The official name of your jaw joint is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It’s directly in front of the ear and it connects the mandible (jawbone) to the skull. It’s a complex joint that’s used frequently. Every time you chew, swallow and speak, you’re depending on your TMJ to function properly.
The precise orientation of the cartilage disc, fluid and ligaments strike a perfect balance, but when damage occurs, the result can be painful.
Common Types of Arthritis
How arthritis can damage your jaw depends on the type of arthritis you have; there are many common forms of the condition.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative, chronic disease that wears down the affected joints. First you notice stiffness, then pain. The affected joint may begin to swell if it is overused.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which your immune system attacks your joints. With this autoimmune disorder, your body attacks healthy, living tissues, such as the lining of joints.
Psoriatic arthritis is another autoimmune disease that can affect the skin, ligaments and joints. Fibromyalgia, gout and lupus can all contribute to arthritic conditions of the joints.
The Connection Between Arthritis and TMJ Disorders
A TMJ disorder prevents you from opening and closing your jaw normally or without pain. Your jaw might click when you open and close it, or it may lock painfully without warning. It might be hard to chew and swallow. The pain could spread to your ears and other areas of your face.
You know that arthritis can damage your jaw joint, just like it can damage other joints in the body, but can it cause a TMJ disorder?
Over time, the damage to the cartilage, whether due to wear and tear from osteoarthritis or inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis, makes it so your TMJ doesn’t function like it used to. Eventually, swelling and degradation of the disc and nearby tissues could result in a TMJ disorder diagnosis.
When this happens, explore your treatment options. Should you try to get by with applying ice and eating soft foods, or should you consider joint replacement surgery?
Contact Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery to learn more about how arthritis can damage your jaw and what you can do to slow, stop and even reverse the progression.