Your Guide to TMJ Surgery
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. You may not always think about your jaw joint, but when it’s not working properly it can have a major impact on your life. A damaged jaw joint can be painful and make it difficult to eat and even speak.
Most TMJ disorders can be treated with non-surgical therapies. These treatments include resting the joint, using ice/heat therapy, and using TMJ mouth guards. Stress can sometimes play a role in TMJ disorders, so finding ways to relax can also be helpful.
However, non-surgical treatments for TMJ disorders don’t always work. Sometimes more conservative treatments only help you manage your symptoms. In these situations, you may need to consider surgery to treat your TMJ disorder.
At PRECiDENT we want to help you make the right decision for your health. Deciding to move forward with TMJ surgery is a big step. It’s important to do your research, talk with TMJ experts, and consider your unique needs before just diving in. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to TMJ surgery. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to make your decision a little easier. We’ll talk about everything you need to know about TMJ surgery including:
- Can Surgery Solve My TMJ Problems?
- What Are the Types of TMJ Surgery?
- How Much Will TMJ Surgery Cost?
- What Can I Expect, How Can I Prepare, and What Will Recovery Look Like?
- The Results of TMJ Surgery
We hope that by the end of this guide you’ll have a better understanding of whether or not you should consider surgery for your jaw joint. If you feel like you need more information or you are ready to take that step, our TMJ specialists at PRECiDENT are ready to help.
Can Surgery Solve My TMJ Problems?
When deciding whether or not to move forward with TMJ surgery the first question a lot of people have is “can surgery actually solve my TMJ problems?”
For certain patients, yes, surgery can solve your TMJ issues. While most TMJ disorders simply require rest and non-surgical methods, there are times when surgery is the only option.
The Right Treatment Depends on Your Diagnosis
When we treat the jaw joint, we need to take an orthopedic approach. That means we need to treat it like all the other joints in your body. We need to treat the root of the problem instead of just addressing symptoms.
The truth is your jaw joint is similar to other joints like your knees or hips. It’s made up of two bones that come together. It has tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and muscle attachments. And we need to take all of those pieces into consideration when deciding to move forward with surgery.
If you injured your knee, your doctor would examine it carefully to determine the extent of the damage. Most of the time your knee will be fine with rest and maybe a knee brace. But there will be times when surgery is the only way to repair the damage. Tearing your ACL is an example. In that situation just about every doctor will tell you that you need surgery.
We need to approach the TMJ in the same way. Most of the time you don’t need surgery. But in certain situations, it’s the only option. And in these cases, yes, surgery will solve your TMJ problems. The reason TMJ surgery will solve your TMJ pain is because it addresses the root of the problem instead of just managing your symptoms.
If you’ve been trying to ease your pain with non-surgical methods and those just aren’t working, then TMJ surgery may be what you need.
What is the Cost of TMJ Surgery?
Any type of surgery will be more expensive than more conservative treatments. The cost of TMJ surgery often
depends on the specific procedure and the experience of your surgeon.
Minimally invasive procedures, such as arthroscopy and arthrocentesis, will typically cost less than open joint surgery. You should see a maxillofacial surgeon for most TMJ surgeries, which will usually cost a bit more as you will be paying for the expertise of your surgeon.
Unfortunately, most insurance companies see any type of jaw surgery as cosmetic and not medically necessary, so they won’t cover TMJ surgery. You may be able to get coverage, so it’s always worth trying. If your insurance won’t cover TMJ surgery, your surgeon will be able to help you figure out other options to cover the cost.
What Are the Types of TMJ Surgery?
There are several different types of TMJ surgery. The right one for you will depend on your unique needs. We encourage you to do some more research on each type and talk to your medical team in order to get a better idea of what you might need.
Your Options for TMJ Surgery Include:
TMJ Arthrocentesis: where needles are inserted into the joint and fluid is flushed in. This process washes the joint out and improves mobility.
TMJ Arthroscopy: a tube is inserted into the joint through a small incision. A camera is often used to look inside the joint and small tools allow the surgeon to make a few repairs.
Open Joint Surgery: the surgeon is able to operate directly on the joint. They can repair, replace, or reposition the joint disc.
What to Expect From TMJ Surgery
One thing that will help make your decision to move forward with TMJ surgery easier is knowing what to expect. That way you can get prepared and feel more confident with your decision.
The nice thing with most TMJ surgeries is that they are not very invasive. That means the risks are relatively low and the recovery time is short. For TMJ arthrocentesis and TMJ arthroscopy, you will be able to go home the same day as your procedure. Open joint surgery will require a hospital stay, but in most cases you’ll only be there for one night.
How to Prepare for TMJ Surgery
The best way to preapre for TMJ surgery is to ask your surgeon any questions you may have. Ask about the procedure, recovery, or anything you’re anxious about. This will help you feel more at ease. You’re surgeon wants you to feel comfortable and won’t mind helping you.
You will also want to make sure everything is in order before your surgery. Arrange transportation and time off work. You will need to be on a soft food diet for a few days, so you will want to get meals ready before hand. Don’t forget to fill any prescriptions and pain medication as well.
Recovering From TMJ Surgery
One of the biggest factors to consider when deciding on whether or not surgery is an option is the recovery process. Recovering from TMJ surgery usually takes a week or two depending on your procedure. You will experience some pain, swelling, or bruising on your jaw. Pain medication will be prescribed by your doctor, but OTCs can work as well. You may also notice a change in your bite, but that will resolve itself eventually.
You will need to go on a soft food diet for the first few weeks after your surgery. This gives your joint a chance to heal properly. Luckily, TMJ surgery has a high success rate which means once everything is healed, you should be able to go back to eating the foods you love.
The Results of TMJ Surgery
Check out these TMJ surgery success stories.
From Years of Pain to Permanent Relief.
Olivia Brown’s Story.
For years Olivia Brown suffered from symptoms of a TMJ disorder. After trying to manage her pain with mouthguards and splints, she had an MRI that revealed the real problem. She discovered the disc in her jaw joint was completely displaced. And that’s when Olivia reached out to PRECiDENT for help.
An Answer for Chronic TMJ Pain.
Madison Brown’s Story.
Madison’s TMJ pain started when she was only 15 and progressively grew worse. She began to miss school and work because the pain from her jaw and headaches were so bad. The pain she was in was keeping her from enjoying her life. PRECiDENT stepped in to provide a solution that helped her get that joy back.
TMJ disorders – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. (2018b, December 28). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350945
Jewell, T. (2019, September 26). What to Expect from TMJ Surgery. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/tmj-surgery
Fletcher, J. (2021, April 28). What to know about surgery for TMJ disorders. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/tmj-surgery
TMJ Surgery is Not Always Right for Everyone.
But it May be Right for You.
In most cases, TMJ disorders are treated with non-surgical methods. But in some cases you may need to consider surgery. Moving forward with any type of surgery is a big step and should be done carefully. It’s important to get as much information as possible before making a decision.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you get a better idea about what is involved in TMJ surgery. If you want to learn more or are ready to take the next step, schedule a consultation with one of our specialists today!