About TMJ Arthroscopy

TMJ arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery used for diagnosing and treating TMJ disorders. TMJ disorders are a group of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint, which is the hinge joint that connects the jaw to the skull.

Arthroscopy is an outpatient procedure performed using a specialized tool called an arthroscope, a small instrument with a camera that is inserted into the joint space. The surgeon will use this camera to view the TMJ and surrounding tissues on a monitor during the procedure.

TMJ Disorders

The main benefits of TMJ arthroscopy are that it provides a way to diagnose and treat joint disorders, restore the jaw’s range of motion, and lysing scar tissue without the need for more invasive surgical procedures such as open-joint surgery.

Some of the common joint disorders treated with arthroscopic techniques include:

  • Synovitis: Inflammation of the joint that can cause pain. Arthroscopy can be used to reduce inflamed tissue that is causing symptoms. 
  • Myofascial pain syndrome: Surgical treatment of the TMJ can help alleviate this condition characterized by muscle pain and spasms in the face, neck, and shoulders. 
  • Disc displacement: A condition in which the TMJ disc, a cartilage cushion in the joint, becomes displaced. Surgery can be performed to help reposition and mobilize the disc to relieve symptoms of pain and limited opening.
  • Internal derangement: A condition in which the TMJ components, such as the disc or articular cartilage, become displaced or damaged. TMJ arthroscopy can be used to treat and relieve symptoms of pain and limitation of opening.

The Benefits

TMJ disorders can cause pain, stiffness, and jaw, face, neck, and shoulders symptoms. With surgery, regular functions such as, talking, and chewing may be improved.

Arthroscopic techniques allow surgeons to view the joint and surrounding tissues with a small camera inserted into the TMJ to identify the source of TMJ pain and stiffness. Once they have determined the problem, they can treat it using various techniques, such as removing inflamed tissue, releasing scar tissue, or realigning dislocated joints.

Recovery Time

One of the main benefits of TMJ arthroscopy is that it is a minimally invasive procedure. There is typically less pain and swelling associated with arthroscopy than with more traditional open joint surgery. Recovery times are also shorter, and patients can typically return to their normal activities within a few days.

Pain Relief

Arthroscopy typically causes less pain and discomfort than traditional surgical procedures. Some TMJ patients may experience moderate to severe jaw pain in the days following their surgery. This can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription pain medications. Patients who have had parafunctional muscle activity like clenching, or grinding of teeth, may require a muscle relaxant for the first week.

If you’re experiencing severe pain, you may be prescribed narcotic pain medication. Do not take more than the recommended dosage or more frequently than your doctor prescribes. Do not drive or consume alcohol while you are taking them. Never combine opioids with benzodiazepines, sleep aids, or other depressants. 

Wound Care

Typically only small incisions are made on the skin. These incisions usually require a couple of small stitches. You can shower 24 hours after your surgery, but do not submerge your head underwater, or soak your face, or apply a heating pad, until after the sutures are removed.

In wound care, you may gently clean the incisions with a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water applied with a Q-tip and then dried with a soft cloth. To keep the incisions moist, you can use a thin layer of antibiotic ointment.

Activity

You will probably feel well enough to return to your normal activities within a few days after TMJ arthroscopy. However, you should avoid strenuous activity or exercise for at least two weeks after your surgery. This will help minimize swelling and pain.

Complications

TMJ arthroscopy is a relatively safe and effective surgical procedure. However, as with any surgery, there are risks associated with arthroscopic surgery. It is important to educate yourself about surgical techniques and their risks. 

These risks may include:

  • Infection: Infection can occur at the site of the incisions or in the TMJ itself. Infections are rare, but may require antibiotics or, in rare cases, additional surgery.
  • Nerve damage: Arthroscopy may damage the nerves that provide feeling to your face. This complication is rare and usually temporary but can result in numbness or tingling in your face.
  • Damage to the TMJ: Arthroscopy is a delicate procedure, and some damage may occur during the surgery. This can result in TMJ pain and inflammation that may require additional treatment and/or revision surgery to correct.

Alternatives to Surgery

If TMJ arthroscopy is not an option for you, other non-surgical treatment options may help improve your symptoms. These include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen can help relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation. 
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy exercises can help stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joint, which may help relieve pain.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): TENS is electrical stimulation that can help relieve TMJ pain.
  • Botox injections: Botulinum toxin injections can help relax the muscles around the TMJ, which may help relieve pain.
  • Splint therapy: A splint is a mouthguard worn to help protect the joints from further damage.

Don’t Suffer In Silence

Usually TMJ dysfunction and pain can be treated conservatively by a TMJ specialist. However, after conservative therapy, if you continue to suffer from chronic, intense pain and inflammation of the TMJ, consult with one of our exceptional oral surgeons. A surgical option may be the next treatment modality using TMJ arthroscopy. This surgical procedure can help improve joint function and alleviate painful symptoms, allowing you to manage your TMJ-related discomfort. To learn more about TMJ arthroscopy and whether it may be right for you.

Call AZ Max at (480) 830-5866 to schedule an appointment at any one of or 5 locations.