Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can affect many areas of the body, including the jaw. Learn more about jaw pain, what to expect, and how to combat it. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition that occurs when your body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. RA commonly affects joints throughout the body, including the jaw. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation, which
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition that occurs when your body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. RA commonly affects joints throughout the body, including the jaw. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation, which leads to redness, swelling, pain, warmth, and stiffness in the affected areas.
This article discusses RA in the jaw, including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Chances are, you haven't paid much attention to your jaw joint. But, when it's inflamed—as occurs with rheumatoid arthritis—it's almost impossible to ignore. Your jaw moves frequently throughout the day as you talk, eat, and swallow.
Your jaw joint, called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can be felt a few finger-widths in front of your ear on each side of your face. This joint is formed by your lower jaw (mandible) and your skull. An articular disk provides padding between these bones, and ligaments that attach bone to bone provide additional support. Many muscles surround the area to move your TMJ.
Symptoms of RA in the jaw can include:
These symptoms are also common with other conditions that affect the TMJ. However, one of the hallmark signs of RA is that it affects joints on both sides of the body at the same time. Other conditions that cause jaw issues usually only affect one side of your jaw.
RA in the jaw can also cause other symptoms, such as TMJ headaches, earaches, and ringing or buzzing sounds in your ears.
Diagnosing RA begins with your healthcare provider collecting information about your symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis affects your whole body—not just the jaw. Early on, symptoms of RA usually appear in the hands, fingers, and wrists.
Symptom criteria for diagnosing RA typically include:
Blood work is important in the diagnosis of RA. General blood tests offer information about levels of inflammation in the body.
Other specific blood tests look for the presence of rheumatoid factor (a specific antibody that occurs with inflammatory conditions), anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate), and C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood.
As your condition progresses, imaging is useful in determining how much damage RA has caused to a specific joint, such as your jaw. X-rays are often the first step in imaging an inflamed joint. This image provides information about the bones in your joint, how they are aligned, and whether there has been joint damage (erosive disease).
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is most often used to assess soft tissues in your joints, such as the articular disk in your TMJ. Computed tomography (CT) can be used to further assess the damage that RA has done to the bones of your jaw.
Jaw pain from RA can be treated with medications and home remedies.
Rheumatoid arthritis is treated with medications that target your overactive immune system to decrease inflammation throughout the body. These medications—called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or DMARDs—can help decrease pain in your jaw and other joints in your body. However, they can take months to start working.
Anti-inflammatory medications are commonly used to treat jaw pain from RA. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Aleve (naproxen) and Advil (ibuprofen) help reduce swelling and jaw pain. If these aren't effective, your healthcare provider might prescribe a steroid medication, such as prednisone.
Jaw pain can also be treated with home remedies, such as:
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own cells. RA often targets joints throughout the body, including the jaw. Symptoms of RA in the jaw include pain, stiffness, clicking, and limited movement. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory medications and home remedies.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis can be challenging, particularly during a flare-up. Jaw pain can be especially frustrating, but simple changes to your habits can make a big difference. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions regarding medication and lifestyle changes to help keep your inflammation in check, and be sure to let them know when something isn't working. Consider joining a support group for additional support and tips.
RA can cause jaw pain at the TMJs—the joints that can be felt in front of your ears when you move your jaw up and down. RA causes pain in both sides of the jaw, which is often worse when you eat hard or chewy foods, or open your mouth all the way.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes breakdown of structures in your jaw, including cartilage, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and bone. Inflammation in the joints cause pain, redness, warmth, swelling, and limited movement.
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause gum disease and infections, which can cause your teeth to loosen.