Exploring the Types of TMJ Surgery

Your Guide to Relief

What Are the Types of TMJ Surgery?

A TMJ disorder is a common condition. Millions of people across the country suffer from debilitating jaw joint pain. TMJ disorders can make it difficult to open your mouth to eat and speak. Most cases can be treated with non-surgical options. Rest, lifestyle changes, and medication are all effective for mild TMJ pain. But more severe cases will need surgical intervention.     There are several types of TMJ surgery. Each one targets different aspects of the disorder. The most commonly used surgical procedures for TMJ disorder include 
  • Arthroscopy
  • Arthrocentesis
  • Open joint surgery
  • Total joint replacement
Each of these procedures has its own unique benefits and drawbacks. Knowing which one is right for you depends on your unique case. You need to discuss all of these options with your medical team. They will diagnose your TMJ disorder and help you make the right decision. In this blog post, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the different types of TMJ surgery. We’ll discuss what to expect during the procedure and recovery time. We’ll also look at how to know if each type is right for you. Whether you are experiencing mild discomfort or severe pain this post will help you understand your options for treatment and make an informed decision about your healthcare.

TMJ Arthrocentesis

The least invasive type of TMJ surgery is arthrocentesis. During arthrocentesis, your surgeon washes the joint out with a saline solution. In order to do this, your surgeon will insert needles into the joint. Flushing the joint like this remove excess scar tissue and any inflammatory chemicals. Sometimes, corticosteroids or other medications are also injected into the joint. 

Recovery and What to Expect

Because arthrocentesis is not very invasive the recovery time is very short. It’s performed as an outpatient procedure, so you should be able to go home the same day. The entire procedure should only take about 20 minutes per joint. You may need a day or two after the procedure to rest a bit. But other than that, you should be able to get back to your regular life pretty quickly.  TMJ arthrocentesis is the most successful type of TMJ surgery. You should start to see improvements in your joint within a few days. Depending on your case you will only need one procedure. But if the pain persists you may need more.

Am I a Candidate for This Type of TMJ Surgery?

Just like with any other medical procedure, TMJ arthrocentesis is not right for everyone. You need to discuss all of your options with your medical team before making a decision.  This type of TMJ surgery is right for patients who:
  • Have arthritis
  • Have a hard time opening their mouth
  • Haven’t seen success with non-surgical options
If your TMJ pain is more severe, or if this procedure doesn’t help, you need to look into other options.

TMJ Arthroscopy

Another minimally invasive type of TMJ surgery, arthroscopy does involve a small incision above your joint. Your surgeon will then insert a small camera inside a tube. This allows them to see inside the joint better. Since they can see directly inside the joint, it becomes easier for them to figure out how to treat it. After they insert the camera, they can also use small tools to work on the joint.  Things your surgeon can do during TMJ arthroscopy include:
  • Removing inflamed tissue
  • Reshaping the joint
  • Injecting medication
  • Repositioning the synovial disc

Recovery and What to Expect

Recovery from TMJ arthroscopy is short and easy. Each side only takes about 20 minutes. Of course, if your surgeon needs to perform additional procedures it can take a bit longer.  The small incision will be stitched up, usually with self-dissolving stitches. Everything should heal within a week. Some numbness can occur immediately after surgery. So, your surgeon may recommend starting physical therapy at least 48 hours afterward.  As with any type of surgery, there are some rare complications to be aware of. These include
  • Infection
  • Pain and swelling
  • Stiffness in the jaw joint

Am I a Candidate for This Type of TMJ Surgery?

You’re a candidate for this type of TMJ surgery if you have scar tissue, severe disc problems, or thick cartilage on your joint. Arthritis or another type of joint disease can also make arthroscopy necessary.  You will need to look into other types of TMJ surgery if you have an infection or a tumor. 

Open Joint Surgery

Also known as arthroplasty, open joint surgery is when an incision is made above the TMJ so your surgeon can operate directly on the joint. During this procedure, your surgeon removes adhesions, bone spurs, or other growths on the joint. They can also reposition the disc. The TMJ can also be reshaped if necessary. 

Recovery and What Can I Expect

Open joint surgery is a bit more invasive than the other types of TMJ surgery. Therefore, recovery will take longer. This procedure is performed in a hospital and most of the time you’ll have to stay at least overnight. The entire recovery time takes a week or two. You’ll need to plan to take at least 1 week off of work or school. And it’s important to remember not to drive or operate machinery for the first 48 hours, since you’ll be put under general anesthesia.  After the operation, the area around the surgical site will be sore. You’ll be prescribed pain medication and sometimes antibiotics to ward off infection. Ice packs can help with swelling and pain. Bruising for a few days is also normal.  Even though this procedure will help your jaw joint long-term, you’ll be a bit stiff for the first few days. In order to help maintain good motion in your jaw, your surgeon will recommend some exercises for you to do at home. Physical therapy may also be beneficial.

Am I a Candidate for This Type of TMJ Surgery?

Open joint surgery is usually reserved for severe TMJ pain. You’re a candidate for this type of TMJ surgery if you have extreme damage to your joint. Open joint surgery is also an option for patients who have displaced discs.  As always, we encourage you to discuss everything with your medical team before making a decision.

Total Joint Replacement    

Total joint replacement is the most extreme type of TMJ surgery. As the name implies, total joint replacement involves completely replacing your jaw joint. This is done with a prosthetic joint, which is made of titanium. This titanium joint replaces the knuckle part of your TMJ. Sometimes you’ll need to replace some of the bone around the joint with high-density plastic that is screwed into the skull. 

Recovery and What to Expect

Total joint replacement is the most invasive type of TMJ surgery. And the entire process takes much longer than the other types of surgery. It starts with your surgeon taking some detailed CT scans of your joint. This helps them design the replacement joint. Then, the joint will be manufactured. The manufacturing process takes about 3 months. Once the joint is made, you’ll schedule your surgery date. The surgery itself takes about an hour and a half for one side.  After the surgery, you’ll stay in the hospital for one week. Once you get home, you’ll need a few days of recovery time before returning to work or school.  Open joint surgery has many of the same risks as other types of TMJ surgery. These include
  • Infection
  • Swelling 
  • Bruising
There are some complications that are unique to total joint surgery. Sometimes bone and other tissue can start to grow in abnormal places as a result of the procedure.  All of these risks are rare, however.

Am I a Candidate for This Type of TMJ Surgery?

Because total joint replacement is so invasive, it’s reserved for patients who have the most damage to their joints. It’s definitely not the solution for all jaw joint problems.

Take Action Today: Learn More About TMJ Surgery and Find Relief

In conclusion, if you’ve been struggling with TMJ symptoms, it is important to seek professional help from a qualified healthcare provider. TMJ surgery can be an effective option for those who have not found relief from other treatments. The right type of TMJ surgery for you depends on your needs. You need to get a thorough diagnosis from a TMJ expert. Then, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your health. At TMJ Health, we understand the impact that TMJ disorders can have on your daily life. That’s why we are dedicated to providing comprehensive resources to help you better understand your condition and the available treatment options. From articles and blogs to expert advice and support groups, we are here to help you navigate your journey to better TMJ health.

Bolding, S. (2022, November 11). What Are the 3 Types of TMJ Surgery | PRECiDENT.health. PRECiDENT | Center for Facial & Dental Medicine. https://precident.health/blog/what-are-the-3-types-of-tmj-surgery

Cascarini, L. (2021, March 23). What is TMJ replacement surgery? Orthopaedic Specialists. https://os.clinic/what-is-tmj-replacement-surgery/

headpain. (2023, February 13). 3 Types Of TMJ Surgery. Head Pain Institute. https://www.headpaininstitute.com/3-types-of-tmj-surgery/

Specialists, D. I. (2021, August 25). Surgery For TMJ | Everything You Need To Know [Guide]. Dental Implant & Specialist Centre. https://goldcoastimplantspecialist.com.au/news/surgery-for-tmj-everything-you-need-to-know-guide/

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