Rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw is more common than people think. The National Institutes of Health reports that the prevalence of temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) is substantially higher in people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. They also report that TMJ symptoms and disease severity is increased in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Population studies estimate that more than 50% of people with rheumatoid arthritis also suffer from TMJ issues.
Here we discuss the characteristics of TMJ rheumatoid arthritis and how to relieve arthritis pain in the jaw.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition where there is an autoimmune attack against certain tissues in the body. While this autoimmune inflammation can affect many different parts of the body, it notoriously affects the lining of the joints. The intermittent inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (called “flare ups“) causes swelling and pain in the joints and eventually leads to erosion and deformity, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There are several distinct clinical characteristics of TMJ disease in people with rheumatoid arthritis, including the following:
There are certain late-stage changes that can be severely debilitating. These include changes in the bite (malocclusion) and “ankylosis” (stiffening of the joint due to adhesions). Because these changes can result in facial and dental deformities, surgical correction is sometimes required, including TMJ reconstruction.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a complex disease affecting multiple organ systems. For this reason, a whole-body approach to treating rheumatoid arthritis is usually adopted and it’s common for several medical professionals to be involved in the overall care. “A team approach to rheumatoid arthritis is the norm, with a rheumatologist leading the team. Good coordination of care is one of the best things we can do for rheumatoid arthritis patients”, explains Bradley Eli, DMD, MS, a specialist in orofacial pain and TMJ disorders.
Using medications to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis is a central aspect of treatment. The rheumatologist will typically be the one directing the medication strategy. There are specialized medicines used to fight rheumatoid arthritis, including disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and other biologic medications.
For pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been shown to be effective for rheumatoid arthritis of the TMJ.
Aside from medications, there are supportive care measures you can take to help relieve TMJ pain from rheumatoid arthritis, especially during flare ups. These measures include:
The resources listed above are available as part of the Speed2Treat® Home Healing Kit. This kit can be invaluable for treating inflammatory flare-ups of TMJ rheumatoid arthritis. Start your journey towards TMJ pain relief with the Home Healing Kit today!