Symptoms of Arthritis in The Jaw: Spot the Signs & Seek Relief

If you experience discomfort in your jaw, it could be a sign of jaw arthritis. This painful condition affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the jawbone to the skull. Recognizing the symptoms of jaw arthritis is crucial for effective management.

In this article, we will explain what jaw arthritis is, its causes and risk factors, and the most common symptoms you should watch for. We will also discuss how jaw arthritis is diagnosed and provide strategies for managing pain.

Key Takeaways

  • Symptoms of arthritis in the jaw include jaw pain, tenderness, and stiffness, as well as difficulty chewing, clicking or popping sounds, and jaw locking.
  • Other symptoms to watch for include jaw swelling, limited jaw movement, and jaw muscle weakness.
  • It’s important to seek a medical evaluation to determine if symptoms are due to jaw arthritis or other conditions, and to explore various management options, including over-the-counter and prescription medications, physical therapy, and surgical interventions.
  • Lifestyle changes, such as stress reduction techniques and dietary adjustments, can also help alleviate symptoms and support jaw health.

Understanding Jaw Arthritis

Jaw arthritis is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the jawbone to the skull. This joint allows you to move your jaw up and down and side to side, enabling you to speak, chew, and yawn. When the cartilage in the TMJ wears down due to age, injury, or other factors, it can result in jaw arthritis.

symptoms of arthritis in the jaw

There are two main types of jaw arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type and is caused by the gradual wear and tear of cartilage in the TMJ. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune condition that can affect any joint in the body, including the TMJ.

Other risk factors for jaw arthritis include genetics, a history of jaw injury, and teeth grinding or clenching. Symptoms of jaw arthritis can vary depending on the severity of the condition, but typically include jaw pain, tenderness, and stiffness.

Common Symptoms of Jaw Arthritis

Jaw arthritis can present with various symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other conditions. It is essential to recognize the signs early on to manage the condition effectively. Below are some of the most common symptoms of jaw arthritis:

Symptoms Description
Jaw pain and tenderness One of the primary symptoms of jaw arthritis is pain or tenderness in the jaw joint. The discomfort may be dull or sharp and may worsen with jaw movement.
Difficulty chewing Jaw arthritis can affect the ability to chew food comfortably. You may experience discomfort or pain while eating, especially when chewing hard or tough foods.
Clicking or popping sounds You may hear clicking or popping sounds coming from the jaw joint while opening or closing the mouth. This sound is due to the damaged cartilage in the jaw joint.
Jaw locking Advanced cases of jaw arthritis may lead to jaw locking, where the jaw gets stuck in an open or closed position.

These symptoms can impact your daily life and may lead to difficulty performing regular activities such as speaking, eating, or even sleeping.

Additional Symptoms to Watch For

In addition to the common symptoms discussed earlier, some people with jaw arthritis may experience less typical symptoms that can still have a significant impact on their daily lives.

Symptom Description
Jaw Swelling Swelling around the jaw joint can occur due to inflammation and may be accompanied by tenderness or warmth to the touch.
Limited Jaw Movement Difficulty opening the mouth fully or moving the jaw from side to side can occur as a result of arthritis-related joint damage or muscle weakness.
Jaw Muscle Weakness Weakness or fatigue in the muscles that control jaw movement can make it difficult to chew or speak and may lead to difficulty swallowing.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to discuss them with your healthcare provider. They can help determine if your symptoms are related to jaw arthritis and provide appropriate treatment options.

Diagnosing Jaw Arthritis

Diagnosing jaw arthritis can be challenging, as the symptoms may overlap with other conditions affecting the jaw. Therefore, it’s important to seek a medical evaluation if you experience any of the symptoms associated with jaw arthritis.

Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle. They may also order imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRIs, to help diagnose jaw arthritis and rule out other conditions.

If your healthcare provider suspects that you have jaw arthritis, they may refer you to a specialist, such as a dentist or an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, for further evaluation and treatment.

Managing Jaw Arthritis Pain

Effective management of jaw arthritis pain is critical for improving a person’s quality of life. The following strategies may help:

Over-the-counter and prescription medication

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can help alleviate mild to moderate jaw arthritis pain. Prescription medications, such as corticosteroids, may be recommended for more severe cases. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medication.

symptoms of arthritis in the jaw

Alternative treatments

Alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, and chiropractic care, may also be effective in managing jaw arthritis pain. These treatments work by helping to reduce inflammation and improve joint mobility.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes can also help manage jaw arthritis pain. These may include stress reduction techniques, such as yoga or meditation, and dietary adjustments, such as consuming anti-inflammatory foods.

It is important to note that lifestyle changes and alternative treatments are not a substitute for medical treatment. Always consult with a healthcare professional before trying any new treatment.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy can be an effective treatment option for jaw arthritis. A physical therapist can guide patients through specific exercises and techniques to improve jaw mobility, reduce pain, and strengthen the muscles around the jaw joint.

Physical therapy exercises should only be performed under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist.

Braces or splints

For some individuals, braces or splints may be recommended to help alleviate jaw arthritis pain. These devices work by supporting the jaw and reducing pressure on the joint.

A healthcare professional can provide guidance on whether braces or splints are a suitable treatment option.

Physical Therapy for Jaw Arthritis

Physical therapy is an effective treatment for jaw arthritis, aimed at improving mobility, reducing pain, and increasing jaw function. A trained physical therapist can guide patients through exercises and techniques that target the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and surrounding muscles.

One common type of physical therapy for jaw arthritis involves passive stretching exercises. During these exercises, the physical therapist gently stretches the jaw to increase range of motion. This can help alleviate pain and stiffness and improve chewing ability.

Another type of physical therapy involves active exercises, where the patient performs specific movements to strengthen the jaw muscles and improve jaw stability. These exercises can include biting on a rubbery material or doing repetitive jaw movements.

In addition to exercises, physical therapists may also use other techniques to reduce pain and inflammation, such as heat or ice therapy, ultrasound, or low-level laser therapy. The goal of physical therapy for jaw arthritis is to improve function and quality of life without the need for surgery or medication.

It is important to note that physical therapy for jaw arthritis should only be done under the guidance of a trained professional. Attempting these exercises at home without proper instruction could lead to further injury or exacerbate symptoms.

Surgical Options for Jaw Arthritis

For severe cases of jaw arthritis, surgical interventions may be necessary to alleviate pain and improve jaw function. There are several options available, depending on the extent of the damage and the patient’s overall health.

Joint Replacement Surgery

In this procedure, the damaged joint is replaced with an artificial one, made of metal or plastic. This can help reduce pain and improve jaw alignment, but it also involves risks such as infection and nerve damage. Recovery from joint replacement surgery can take several weeks or even months.

symptoms of arthritis in the jaw


Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical option, where a small incision is made near the joint and a camera is inserted to visualize the area. The surgeon can then use small instruments to remove damaged tissue or repair the joint. Recovery time is typically shorter than with joint replacement surgery.

Other Procedures

In some cases, other procedures may be recommended, such as jaw bone reshaping or nerve decompression. These options are less common and may only be suitable for certain patients.

It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of these surgical options with a healthcare professional before making a decision. Surgery should be considered a last resort, after other treatments have been tried and proven ineffective.

Lifestyle Tips to Support Jaw Health

If you have jaw arthritis or want to prevent it from developing, there are simple lifestyle tips you can follow to support jaw health. Here are some suggestions:

  • Avoid excessive jaw movements like gum chewing or fingernail biting.
  • Practice good posture to reduce neck and jaw strain.
  • Practice good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly.
  • Eat a jaw-friendly diet by avoiding hard, chewy, or sticky foods that can strain the jaw.
  • Exercise regularly to reduce stress and improve overall health.
  • Reduce stress through techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga.

By incorporating these lifestyle tips into your daily routine, you can support the health of your jaw and reduce the risk of developing jaw arthritis or experiencing symptoms if you already have it.


Jaw arthritis can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms that can have a significant impact on daily life. Early recognition and appropriate treatment can help manage these symptoms effectively. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeking medical advice, individuals with jaw arthritis can alleviate pain and improve their quality of life.

Speak to a healthcare professional

If you suspect you have jaw arthritis or are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article, it is important to seek medical advice. A healthcare professional can provide personalized guidance on managing your symptoms and improving your overall jaw health.


Q: What are the symptoms of jaw arthritis?

A: The symptoms of jaw arthritis may include jaw pain, tenderness, stiffness, difficulty chewing, clicking or popping sounds, and jaw locking.

Q: How does jaw arthritis affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?

A: Jaw arthritis affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which can lead to pain, limited movement, and other symptoms.

Q: What are the common symptoms of jaw arthritis?

A: Common symptoms of jaw arthritis include jaw pain, tenderness, stiffness, difficulty chewing, clicking or popping sounds, and jaw locking.

Q: Are there any additional symptoms to watch for?

A: In addition to the common symptoms, jaw swelling, limited jaw movement, and jaw muscle weakness can also be signs of jaw arthritis.

Q: How is jaw arthritis diagnosed?

A: Jaw arthritis is diagnosed through a medical evaluation, where a healthcare professional may use imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs to confirm the diagnosis.

Q: What are some strategies for managing jaw arthritis pain?

A: Managing jaw arthritis pain can involve over-the-counter pain medications, prescription options, alternative treatments, lifestyle changes, and stress reduction techniques.

Q: Can physical therapy help with jaw arthritis?

A: Yes, physical therapy can be beneficial for jaw arthritis. Jaw exercises and techniques recommended by a physical therapist can improve jaw mobility and reduce pain.

Q: What are the surgical options for jaw arthritis?

A: Surgical options for jaw arthritis may include joint replacement surgery, arthroscopy, and other procedures. However, these are usually reserved for severe cases and have potential risks and benefits to consider.

Q: Are there any lifestyle tips to support jaw health?

A: Yes, maintaining good posture, avoiding excessive jaw movements, practicing proper oral hygiene, following a jaw-friendly diet, and managing stress can all support jaw health and help prevent or manage jaw arthritis.

Q: What should I take away from this article?

A: It is important to recognize the symptoms of jaw arthritis and seek appropriate treatment. Consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and management options.

Jillian Hunt is a strong and inspiring individual who has been living with arthritis for over a decade. Despite the challenges she faces, she’s determined to find ways to manage her condition and improve her quality of life. She’s also an advocate for others who face similar challenges, sharing her insights on various forums.

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Arthritis Treatment Lab is a blog dedicated to providing information and resources on various treatment options for arthritis. From traditional approaches such as medication and physical therapy, to alternative therapies like acupuncture and herbal remedies, we strive to educate and empower individuals who are living with this condition. Our articles cover the latest research findings, practical tips for managing symptoms, and personal stories from people who have successfully overcome arthritis. Whether you are newly diagnosed or a long-time sufferer, Arthritis Treatment Lab is here to support you on your journey towards better health.