TMJ Disorder: When is surgery necessary?

Categories: dental surgery

Disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), more commonly known as the jaw, can cause significant discomfort for patients. This joint is a complex one, composed of several parts that all must work in concert to facilitate the vertical and lateral movements required of our jaws. With all of these moving parts, even a minor malfunction can cause major symptoms, including facial pain, headaches and even earaches.

Often, the first line of treatment for TMJ disorder involves non-invasive measures like stress reduction, biofeedback, physical therapy or possibly a splint worn at nighttime. If these treatments are not effective, then dental surgery may be the next step. Surgery is typically reserved for the most severe cases of TMJ disorders, however, and most patients find that their symptoms respond to the more conservative measures.

However, when a patient’s TMJ symptoms have not resolved with other treatments, the dentist may make a referral to an oral surgeon for further evaluation.

TMJ disorders can be caused by a number of factors, as well, as this too can determine whether dental surgery may be warranted for a particular patient’s case.

If the TMJ issues are caused by a malocclusion, or misaligned bite, surgery can reposition the jaws to correct the bite. This often relieves symptoms caused by TMJ disorders at the same time.

Jaws that are severely degraded, locked in place or dislocated may also need surgical interventions.

The types of dental surgery performed in cases of TMJ disorders include arthoscopy or arthoplasty of the joint. This can allow the oral surgeon to either manipulate the TMJ disk into a better position or replace it if necessary.

Dental surgery is far from the first course of treatment for TMJ disorders, but for patients who do not get relief from other measures, surgery can resolve the symptoms. If you feel that you might be a candidate for surgical treatment for your TMJ disorder, schedule an initial evaluation with our oral surgery team to learn more about your options.