What are the Symptoms of Arthritis in the Jaw?

Arthritis in the jaw, often referred to as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) arthritis, can result in a range of symptoms that affect the jaw and surrounding areas. Common symptoms of TMJ arthritis include:

  • Jaw Pain: Pain in the jaw joint or jaw muscles is a primary symptom of TMJ arthritis. The pain can range from mild discomfort to severe and may be constant or intermittent.
  • Jaw Stiffness: Individuals with TMJ arthritis may experience stiffness in the jaw, making it difficult to open or close the mouth fully. This can lead to limited jaw movement.
  • Popping or Clicking Sounds: TMJ arthritis can cause audible sounds when moving the jaw, such as popping, clicking, or grating noises. These sounds may or may not be accompanied by pain.
  • Difficulty Chewing: Pain and limited jaw movement can result in difficulty chewing food. Individuals may avoid certain foods or experience discomfort while eating.
  • Ear Pain: Pain in or around the ears is a common symptom, as the TMJ is located in close proximity to the ear canal. TMJ arthritis can refer pain to the ears.
  • Headaches: TMJ arthritis can contribute to tension headaches and migraines, as jaw pain and muscle tension can radiate to the head and temples.
  • Neck and Shoulder Pain: Pain from the jaw joint can radiate down to the neck and shoulders, causing discomfort in these areas.
  • Facial Pain: Pain may be felt in the face, particularly around the cheeks and temples.
  • Locking of the Jaw: In some cases, TMJ arthritis can lead to the jaw temporarily locking in an open or closed position. This can be painful and may require manual manipulation to unlock.

It’s important to note that TMJ arthritis can affect one or both sides of the jaw. Symptoms can vary in intensity and duration, and they may worsen with activities that involve jaw movement, such as talking, chewing, or yawning.

If you suspect you have TMJ arthritis based on these symptoms, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional, often a dentist or oral surgeon, for a proper diagnosis and management. Treatment options for TMJ arthritis may include lifestyle changes, pain management, physical therapy, the use of a mouthguard or splint, and, in some cases, surgical interventions. Effective management can help alleviate symptoms and improve jaw function and overall quality of life.