TMJ is a joint dysfunction centered primarily on the temporomandibular joints that connect your jaw bone to your skull. Like arthritis, TMJ can result in painful swelling, an inability to open your jaw, and popping or clicking noises in the jaw. Is TMJ really a type of arthritis?
What Is Arthritis?
First, let’s make sure we have a good understanding of what arthritis is. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint. This swelling of the joint is typically a response to some type of damage to the joint. It’s part of your body’s healing response, but it can actually contribute to the breakdown of the body’s cartilage, which in turn leads to more injury of the joint.
There are many, many kinds of arthritis. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is when normal wear and tear of the joint is the cause of the inflammation and damage. The cushioning cartilage between the bones has been worn down and no longer adequately cushions the joint, so the bones rub against one another. This can cause damage to the bones, resulting in the flecking off of bone material, which further irritates the joint.
TMJ: Arthritis and Beyond
TMJ can’t be classified as a type of arthritis because although it may start as a simple jaw joint problem, it progresses beyond the joint itself. We might describe disc displacement of the temporomandibular joint as a type of arthritis. It fits the definition, and shares many of the same causes, either normal wear and tear or traumatic injury. We also know that the temporomandibular joint is commonly affected by arthritis.
But what really makes TMJ its own condition is that in addition to the jaw pain centered in the joint, the condition often includes numerous other symptoms that go beyond the problem with the joint. Headaches, tinnitus, and other related problems occur because the jaw joint is at the center of a complex, interwoven partnership of tissues that includes muscles, nerves, and other structures. When the jaw joint suffers, the rest of the partnership does too. Studies have shown that not all people who have disc displacement develop TMJ, because TMJ is not as simple as a joint problem. It’s that, and more.