Osteoarthritis of the jaw is characterized by the wearing of cartilage in the temporomandibular joint. If you place your finger over the joint located on the side of your face near your ear and open your mouth, you will feel the movement of the joint. You may hear a pop if the jaw is out of line or arthritis is present. Jaw osteoarthritis symptoms usually begin in older adults.
In addition to feeling or hearing a pop over the temporomandibular joint when opening the mouth, symptoms also include a grating feeling. A crunching sound is heard when the jaw is mobilized. The grating is the result of the degenerative condition of the cartilage. This cartilage is not as strong as in other joints of the body and wears to a point that the cartilage disappears or forms holes. In severe cases the top of the jawbone bone flattens out restricting the mouth from opening wide. It can also shift causing difficulty in closing the mouth.
Pain is the most prevalent symptom. It is intense throughout the jaw area and side of the face. It can radiate to the head, causing headaches. It appears as shooting pains or constant aches. The neck can experience stiffness that radiates to the arms. Dizziness and earaches can occur. The ears might feel stuffy like they are full of wax. Sleeping is a problem for many sufferers because the jaw moves out of line while resting, leaving it sore and inflamed.
Symptoms are also part of the temporomandibular joint syndrome or TMJ. Over 11 million people in the United States are afflicted according to Arthritis Today. The lower jaw is the culprit since the upper jaw does not move. The joint serves as a hinge and as in any hinge, without the proper lubrication and connection; it will freeze up and stop working as intended.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research lists TMJ symptoms as jaw pain that radiates to the face and neck, locking jaw so it is hard to open the mouth or chew, sounds like popping, clicking or grating when opening the mouth and a misalignment of the jaw that is noticeable when closing the mouth. The teeth will have an overbite on one side.
If you believe you have jaw osteoarthritis symptoms see your doctor. An oral surgeon or maxillofacial specialist can offer the best advice and treatment. Over-the-counter pain remedies can help the pain but too many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs can cause stomach discomfort and bleeding. Try eating soft foods that don’t require much chewing until the discomfort subsides. Warm compresses can also help alleviate the pain until you can receive treatment from a doctor.
Arthritis Today: TMJ
Merck Manuals: Temporomandibular Disorders
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: TMJ Disorders