Degenerative Joint Disease

What Is Degenerative Joint Disease?

Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, occurs when the protective cartilage in a joint begins to wear down. It can happen due to normal wear and tear, aging, or an injury. In the case of your temporomandibular joint, degenerative joint disease can cause the cartilage that cushions the joint to break down, leading to bone-on-bone contact and inflammation in affected joints. This can result in pain, stiffness, and limited mobility in the jaw.

If you’re dealing with TMJ problems, contact our dentist in Farmington today at (505) 327-4863 to schedule your consultation. We’ll evaluate your health and develop a treatment plan to relieve pain and get you on the track to better days.

man holding his mouth and wincing in pain

Causes of Degenerative Joint Disease

Several factors can contribute to the development of degenerative joint disease in TMJ, including:

  • Aging: As we age, the cartilage in our joints can naturally break down, leading to degenerative joint disease.
  • Joint Injury: Trauma to the jaw, such as a dislocation or a fracture, can increase the risk of developing degenerative joint disease.
  • Jaw Overuse: Using the jaw excessively, such as chewing gum or clenching the teeth, can put added stress on the TMJ and increase the risk of developing degenerative joint disease.
  • Genetics: Some people may be more predisposed to developing degenerative joint disease due to genetics.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Symptoms of osteoarthritis in the TMJ vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:

Jaw joint pain or tenderness

  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • Clicking, popping, or grinding sounds when moving the jaw
  • Joint stiffness in the jaw muscles
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Tiredness or discomfort in the facial muscles

If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, call our Farmington dental office at (505) 327-4863 to schedule an appointment.


If you’re dealing with TMJ pain due to degenerative joint disease, you may try the following treatments:

  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Prescription medications, such as muscle relaxants or corticosteroids, may also be prescribed in some cases.
  • Physical Therapy: Seeing a physical therapist can provide you with exercises and stretches that can help strengthen the muscles around the jaw joint and improve mobility.
  • Splints or Oral Appliances: Wearing a splint or oral appliance can help reduce stress on the TMJ and prevent further damage.
  • Jaw Surgery: Surgical intervention is typically considered when conservative treatments don’t provide pain relief. Procedures may include arthrocentesis (joint washout), arthroscopy (minimally invasive surgery), or, in severe cases, joint replacement surgery.

young woman at the dentist holding her mouth in pain

Frequently Asked Questions

Can degenerative joint disease be prevented?

While degenerative joint disease cannot be entirely prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the condition. Maintaining a healthy weight, practicing good posture, avoiding excessive jaw movements, and wearing a mouth guard during high-impact activities can help protect your TMJ and reduce your risk of degenerative joint disease.

Is degenerative joint disease a common condition?

Yes, degenerative joint disease in the TMJ is a relatively common condition, especially in older adults. It’s estimated that around 10 million people in the United States are affected by TMJ disorders, including degenerative joint disease.

Find Relief for Symptoms

If you’re experiencing jaw pain, stiffness, or limited mobility, see a doctor or dentist for an evaluation. Degenerative joint disease can be a chronic and debilitating condition, but with proper treatment and management, you can improve your quality of life and reduce your symptoms.

Contact our dentist today to schedule your consultation for TMJ in Farmington. Call us at (505) 327-4863.