TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It is the hinge-like joint located where the skull and the jawbone meet. The TMJ enables the jaw to slide up and down. It also lets you chew, talk, and do different things with your mouth. Most TMJ disorders will cause stiffness, pain, and lack of mobility in the TMJ.
While not all problems with the TMJ will require TMJ surgery, most can hinder you from carrying out the jaw’s full range of movement. TMJ surgery is considered the ideal option if conservative treatments such as mouth guards or oral splints have proved futile and won’t provide relief for the symptoms.
Good Candidates for TMJ Surgery
TMJ surgery may be the recommended option in the following scenarios:
- Individual experiences intense and consistent pain when closing or opening the mouth
- Individual can’t close or open the mouth all the way
- Individual experiences difficulty drinking or eating because of immobility or jaw pain
- Individual has a jaw condition or certain structural problems which has been confirmed through MRI or other imaging options
- Individual notices that the immobility or pain has gotten progressively worse even when resting
TMJ surgery will not be recommended in the following scenarios:
- TMJ symptoms are not severe. You are not considered a good candidate for TMJ surgery if your jaw keeps making a popping or clicking sound each time you open it but no pain is experienced.
- TMJ symptoms are not consistent. If you have painful and severe symptoms that are experienced one day and gone the next, you still won’t be considered a good candidate for the procedure. The symptoms might be caused by overuse or certain repetitive movements. It can also be caused by constant gum chewing, eating hard foods, and talking more than usual. In similar cases, you will be asked to rest your jaw at least for a few hours or days.
Ideally, you need to be evaluated by an oral surgeon or dentist who is an expert in TMD. They will carry out a meticulous examination of the patient’s symptomatic history, radiological findings, and clinical presentation to figure out if getting surgery can help with the condition and the symptoms. However, surgery is always considered the last resort.
What to Expect During Recovery from TMJ Surgery
Recovery time can vary from one person to another and can depend on several factors such as the type of surgery performed. Most surgeries of the TMJ are outpatient procedures. This means you can immediately go home a few hours after the TMJ surgery.
It is also important that you have someone who can accompany you home on the day of the surgery since the side effects of the anesthesia can include inability to focus and feeling a bit woozy. If your job won’t require you to open your mouth a lot, there is no need for you to take a day off work.
A bandage may be placed on your jaw after the procedure. Additional bandage may also be wrapped around the head to ensure the wound dressing stays in place. Patients might also be prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs if you experience any pain after the procedure.
When there is swelling, you will be advised to apply cold compress to the area. Warm heat applied to the affected jaw muscles can also provide comfort after the procedure. Using a heating pad or microwaving a damp cloth is recommended. You need to also remove and replace the bandages regularly.