Arthritis is a disorder that causes painful inflammation of the joints. An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of arthritis, with 40 million of those cases right here in the United States. But despite its frequent occurrence, you may not realize that arthritis can sometimes be responsible for another painful joint condition: temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD. That’s because TMD is a disorder of the joints too – the temporomandibular joints. Though TMD can be caused by many different things, many people don’t realize that arthritis could be the culprit.
It all starts with the jawbone. When the jawbone becomes affected by arthritis, there’s always a chance that the arthritis can spread to the temporomandibular joint. This inflammation can not only cause the pain and stiffness that’s all too common with TMD, but can also cause the bite to become misaligned as the cartilage breaks down. Another form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, can even cause the teeth to become misaligned, which can also throw the rest of the jaw out of alignment.
The good news is that arthritis-related TMD is often easily preventable. First and foremost, if you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, make sure you stick to your prescribed RA medications, which can help prevent the spread of RA throughout your body and to the jaw or temporomandibular joint. If you already have RA or arthritis and it has already spread to the temporomandibular joint, don’t panic. Treatment options like neuromuscular dentistry can help realign the jaw and ease some of the pain and discomfort associated with TMD.
Just one more thing... Just because you don’t have arthritis yet doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Did you know that grinding your teeth can indirectly cause arthritis in the temporomandibular joint? Known as bruxism, the grinding of your teeth wears away the cartilage in the temporomandibular joint, making it more susceptible to inflammatory conditions like TMD, and making it all the more important to treat TMD and bruxism immediately, before it has a chance to develop into arthritis.
If you would like to be evaluated for TMD or bruxism, please give Dr. Lederman’s office a call at 516-882-1764.