Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that causes problems such as pain and inflammation in the joints. When the conditions spread and affect the jaw, it often causes tenderness, pain, and stiffness while chewing. When this condition advances, the joint can be painful and can even make noises during movement.
The involvement of jaw in rheumatoid arthritis is common in many people and the condition is not often controlled well. Even though the estimate of prevalence of this condition varies widely between 2 and 88 percent of people having rheumatoid arthritis, only a few people experience its symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis mostly affects the joints in a symmetrical way which makes people notice its symptoms on both sides of the jaw.
As rheumatoid arthritis can affect the jaw, it is important to know about its symptoms, diagnosis, and ways to relieve jaw pain associated with it.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and the Jaw
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which is inflammatory and it causes the immune system of the body to attack the healthy cells and tissues that are present around the joints. Even though rheumatoid arthritis mostly affects the wrist, hands, and knees, it also causes inflammation in the jaw joint. If the jaw is involved, it occurs during the later course of the condition.
Inflammation which is caused due to rheumatoid arthritis can often lead to the formation of stiffness and pain in the jaws and it can mostly interfere with the person’s ability to eat, drink and even sleep. It can also interrupt the development of jaw in children, according to rheumatology.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Pain in the jaw is developed rarely during the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore, people having rheumatoid arthritis should see their rheumatologist as soon as they begin to start experiencing pain in the jaw.
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw include – aching jaw, pain, stiffness or tenderness in the joint of the jaw, creaking, grinding or crunching sounds in the jaw, reduced joint space, limited range of motion, bone loss or erosion on the affected joints, and misalignment of the jaw (occurs mostly in advanced cases).
It is always recommended to approach a rheumatologist who would diagnose the jaw pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis based on your medical history and current symptoms. They would also mostly run a few diagnostic tests for validation.
The common tests for diagnosing the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis include a physical examination of both the mouth and the jaw, taking x-rays of the affected jaw joint, taking MRI scans, conducting blood tests for measuring the levels of antibody (to rule infections out), etc.
Ways to Relieve Pain in the RA Joint
Controlling the condition itself is the first step to reducing pain in the RA joints. Rheumatologists mostly prescribe medications for preventing the damage occurring in the tissue and for slowing down the progression of the disease.
The intake of medications that includes steroidal and non-steroidal drugs (which are anti-inflammatory) helps reduce the pain and inflammation caused in the jaw.
Since the medications on rheumatoid arthritis generally slow down or stop the progression of the condition, it reduces the symptoms of the condition and prevents permanent damage of the jaw joint.
The common medications that are used in relieving the symptoms of this condition include corticosteroids, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, and biologic medications.
Certain exercises for the jaw can also help to relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Always speak to your doctor to get to know about the type of exercises that can be the best for you; also know about the frequency of doing those exercises as overdoing can worsen the symptoms. Keep in mind to always warm the jaw muscles up to prevent injury of the jaw.
The immediate symptoms of jaw pain can be helped using home remedies. However, sticking on to home remedies are not enough for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Prolonged pain and inflammation can lead to permanent damage to the tissues even with mild symptoms; therefore taking the medications prescribed by your doctor is very important and should not be avoided.
Some methods that are helpful in relieving the jaw joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis at home include – the applying of cold or hot compress, consuming soft foods and the intake of juices, switching to liquid diet for few days, avoiding the intake of chewy, sticky and crunchy foods, avoiding clenching of the jaw and wide opening of the mouth.