Is Your Jaw Pain Caused By Arthritis?

photo by Audrey Samode your jaw pop or click? If you’re among the 10 million Americans who experience TMJ pain, finding the right treatment means first finding the cause of your discomfort.

The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, connects your jaw bone to your skull and is under constant stress every day from eating and speaking, not to mention the self-inflicted stress of grinding or clenching our teeth. Sometimes an injury to the jaw, head or neck can cause TMD, or temporomandibular disorders, as well.

Arthritis of the TMJ

Other causes of TMD are various types of arthritis, or inflammation of the joints. 1 in 5 American adults are affected by arthritis which can affect any joint in the body where two bones are met with ligaments and cartilage. Arthritis of the TMJ is considered the most painful condition that can affect this joint.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis affecting nearly 16% of people experiencing TMJ pain. The pain can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, or less commonly, metabolic arthritis, or traumatic arthritis.

Signs and Symptoms

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with Dr. Matthews soon to determine if arthritis is the cause.

  • Pain in the chewing muscles or jaw joint or an ache around your ear
  • Limited movement or locking of the jaw
  • Pain in the face, neck, or shoulders, or near the ear
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds when opening your mouth
  • Trouble chewing
  • Headache
  • A sudden change in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together
  • Earaches, dizziness, and hearing problems

If you experience pain unilaterally, or on one side of you face, it could be a sign of osteoarthritis. Pain on both sides could be an indication of rheumatoid arthritis.

Risk Factors for Developing Arthritis

There are factors that can make you more at risk to develop TMJ pain. In order to diagnose the cause of your pain as arthritis, the description of your symptoms and your medical history will be taken into account. Dr. Matthews will look at these factors as well:

  • Gender – rheumatoid arthritis is more likely to affect women, 3 to 1
  • Age – people between 20-40 are more commonly affected
  • Do you grind your teeth or clench your jaw (bruxism)?
  • Malocclusion (bad bite)
  • High stress levels


Rheumatoid arthritis can be confirmed with blood tests. Imaging studies, symptoms and risk factors can determine or rule out arthritis as the cause of your TMJ pain. If arthritis is the cause, there are many different treatment options available.

Typical treatments include the use of NSAIDS, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Other options may include heat applications, a soft diet or limiting movement of the jaw. Exercises may be recommended to prevent greater loss of motion in the joint.

Other options from your dentist can include:

  • A biteplate to wear over your teeth if your bite is out of alignment
  • A night guard to wear over your teeth if you grind your teeth in your sleep
  • Stress reduction techniques or cognitive behavioral therapy may be suggested to help you manage anxiety and tension, if stress is causing you to clench your jaw

If these treatment options fail, surgery may be advised.

If you suffer from any pain in your jaw please come in to see Dr. Matthews as soon as possible. He can help you determine the cause and the correct treatment option to ease your discomfort.

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
4407 Bee Cave Road
Building 2, Suite 221
Austin, Texas, 78746
(512) 452-2273
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