Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease affecting the TMJ. It is the most common TMJ disorder and shows a higher prevalence in women and older people. TMJ osteoarthritis (TMJ-OA) is characterized by variable degrees of inflammation, destruction of the articular cartilage, and sub-chondral bone resorption. In this context, diverse pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, enzymes, and bone-resorptive associated factors have been considered as possible markers of active TMJ-OA. The molecular balance is determinant not only for initiation and progression, but also for the clinical expression of the disease. Recent advances in the biochemical analysis of synovial fluid from affected patients have provided new insights into the patho-physiology of the TMJ-OA; however, its molecular pathogenesis still remains unclear. Recently, a Th1 and Th17-dominated immune response has been associated with the inflammatory and destructive events characteristic of TMJ-OA and, in particular, the Th17 lymphocyte pathway has a pivotal role in the increased production of RANKL, which is involved in osteoclast activation and subsequent sub-chondral bone resorption. Understanding the TMJ physiology and pathogenesis of the TMJ-OA, together with the key molecular determinants of the TMJ tissue destruction, will enable the development of new chair-side point of care diagnostics and more conservative treatment modalities with minimal complications.
Part of the book: Temporomandibular Joint Pathology