What does it mean to have early arthrosis of the TMJ, and how will it affect me?
Arthrosis (joint degeneration also known as osteoarthritis) of the TMJ is extremely common by the time you hit your 20s. The TMJ is one of the most heavily-used joints in the body, starting from birth.
Most people are symptom-free and painless clicking/popping joint noises may accompany opening/closing of the jaw.
For most, the occasional joint sounds do not pose any functional issues. In some patients, chronic manageable arthrosis may flare with acute pain, joint swelling, ear pain and limitation of jaw movement (limited mouth opening, or the inability to close the mouth, also known as open lock). This is usually triggered by prolonged or wide mouth opening (after dental procedures) or increased bruxism (teeth grinding).
Treatment of acute joint pain will NOT reverse the degeneration within the joint. Treatment is aimed at keeping the joint comfortable while allowing time for the entire jaw musculoskeletal system to readjust.
Simple jaw exercises to improve joint lubrication, a soft diet and painkillers are often sufficient to resolve an acute episode of joint inflammation and pain. The good news is, most patients will spontaneously recover and the arthrosis will tend to remain unchanged over a long period of time.
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