by Dr. C.H. Weaver M.D. 2/2021
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone and skull and may be impacted by inflammatory arthritis. TMJ dysfunction is estimated to occur in approximately half of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). (1)TMJ disorders — a type of temporomandibular disorder or TMD — can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement. For most individuals, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders can be effectively relieved.
Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction (2,3)
- Pain, swelling, and tenderness in one or both temporomandibular joints
- Limited mobility in the jaw
- Aching in and around the ear
- Aching facial pain
- Difficulty chewing
- Locking of the joint
- Clicking sounds emanating from the jaw
- Grating sensations
Treatment and Lifestyle Changes
Treatment is similar to treatment for any joint affected by RA or inflammation.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to reduce pain and inflammation while DMARDs are used to prevent progressive joint destruction. (4) Individuals can also implement a number of lifestyle changes to help alleviate symptoms. (5)
- Eat soft foods
- Massage their TMJs
- Apply hot and cold compresses
- Avoid chewing gum and chewy candies
- Avoid opening their mouth too wide when eating, talking, and yawning
- Avoid clenching their jaw
- Avoid resting their chin on their hand
Did you know RA can affect organs other than your joints?
- Witulski S, Vogl TJ, Rehart S, Ottl P. Evaluation of the TMJ by means of clinical TMD examination and MRI diagnostics in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:328560.
- Jaw problems: RA and the jaw. National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. Accessed July 31, 2019.
- TMJ disorders: overview. Mayo Clinic. December 28, 2018. Accessed July 31, 2019.
- Sodhi A, Naik S, Pai A, Anuradha A. Rheumatoid arthritis affecting temporomandibular joint. Contemp Clin Dent. 2015;6(1):124-127.
- Duckworth H. RA and jaw pain: can rheumatoid arthritis cause jaw pain?Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network. October 27, 2018. Accessed July 31, 2019.