When people describe their arthritis pain they often mention knees, hips, hands and shoulders. Though rarely mentioned, arthritis can also be experienced in the jaws, specifically focused in the temporomandibular joints, or TMJs. Just as with these other joints, arthritis in the TMJs can be experienced as pain, stiffness, and limited motion and function.
Most of the arthritis experienced in the TMJs is the result of past trauma, or longstanding jaw problems that have caused wear and tear to the bones, cartilage, ligaments, and lubricating system (degenerative changes). As a result, friction develops giving rise to joint noise, and at times pain and function that is limited.
It is interesting to note that most arthritic changes that occur in the TMJs over time are not accompanied by acute pain. In fact, in aging populations around the world, most arthritic changes in the TMJs are not even accompanied by the need to seek care. The arthritic changes may prompt annoying and at times frightening noises, but for the most part do not limit eating, opening or closing the mouth, or talking.
At times however, arthritic changes in the TMJs cause bite changes that lead to changes in facial appearance and inefficient chewing. If pain accompanies the arthritis and lingers there may well be a need to seek professional guidance. The use of medications, steroid injections, exercise, massage, physical therapy, and dental splints may be essential in controlling the arthritic process. Treatment at times can span months in order for the arthritic process to be arrested.
The most problematic arthritis we see is in young females between the ages of 16-25. The arthritis often results from a number of risk factors including gender, genetics, overuse behaviors, sleep bruxism, and structure including the way the teeth come together. A multi-disciplinary approach is often needed to manage these problems. Certainly, painful arthritic problems need to be treated by a professional.
Other arthritis problems may include psoriatic arthritis, gouty arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. These may need to be investigated by a rheumatologist and at times require long-term care inclusive of medications.
If you are currently suffering from TMJ, please consider trying these 15 home remedies for TMJ pain. If they are ineffectual or the pain worsens, seek a medical professional immediately.
Dr. Donald Tanenbaum is a specialist with offices in New York City and Long Island, NY. He is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat facial pain associated with jaw problems, TMJ, referred pain, nerve pain, and migraines. Find out more at www.tanenbaumtmj.com.