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Is Surgery An Option For TMD Problems?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

If you have a TMD and you’re reading this, you’ve probably already tried mouth guards and or exercises for jaw pain, but you’re still experiencing discomfort and popping. Now, you’re looking for information about what to do and if TMJ surgery may be an option. Only your dental professional can tell you for sure, but here is information to help you have that conversation.

What types of TMJ Surgery Are Available?

According to The Mayo Clinic, there are several types of surgeries available if other therapies are not an option.

Arthrocentesis: Also known as joint aspiration, this minimally invasive procedure involves an oral surgeon inserting a small needle into the joint to irrigate fluid and remove debris. This is performed to examine the fluid—however, it can be therapeutic as it can relieve pain and swelling and improve movement in the joint.

TMJ Arthroscopy: Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive same-day surgery that requires general anesthesia. Your oral surgeon will be able to both assess and treat the problem during your procedure. He or she will either remove inflamed tissue and rinse the area or adjust parts of your jaw joint that are misaligned.

Arthroplasty: Arthroplasty is a surgery to repair, replace or remove scar tissue or bone spurs around the disc that allows you to open and close your jaw. The recovery time from this type of TMJ surgery takes longer and may be more painful than an arthroscopy procedure.

Total Joint Replacement: According to the American Society of TMJ Surgeons, total jaw joint replacement, also known as Total Temporomandibular Joint Replacement (TMJR), is an extensive surgery in which the jaw is either completely or partially replaced. You will first have a CT scan to assess the joint, your prosthetic joint will be manufactured, and your surgeon will fix the new artificial pieces to your skull and lower jaw.

Injections: You may have heard of someone getting a cortisone shot to relieve pain. Corticosteroid injections and botulinum toxin type A (Botox) can help reduce pain and inflammation. The Mayo Clinic reports cortisone shots can provide relief for several months, however, the side effects limit the number of times you can receive one.

Modified condylotomy: Modified condylotomy indirectly addresses the TMJ, as the oral surgeon performs on the lower jaw, rather than the joint itself. This procedure can help relieve pain and locking.

Open-joint surgery: If other treatments are not relieving your TMD, the problem may lie in the structure of your joint. In that case, your oral surgeon or dental professional may recommend open-joint surgery or arthrotomy where they will repair or replace the joint. This surgery involves general anesthesia and a short hospital stay, with a two to six-week recovery period.

What Should You Ask Your Dental Professional About TMJ Surgery

  • What are the potential benefits of the surgery?
  • What are the risks?
  • Are there any other treatment options?
  • What is the recovery period?
  • When should you expect to notice an improvement, if the surgery is successful?

If TMJ affects your quality of life, surgery may be the answer. Talk to your dental professional to find out what’s right for you.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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