If you’re lucky enough not to suffer from TMJ dysfunction, you may not know much about TMJ — or even what or where it is. Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge that connects your jaw bone to your skull on each side of your face. Place the end of your finger against your face just over and below your ear while opening and closing your mouth. You’ll feel your TMJ at work.
TMJ disorder causes pain and lack of mobility in your TMJ which prevents you from opening your jaw fully and smoothly. Pain in your TMJ can extend into your ears, temples, neck and shoulder while causing headaches, earaches, pain, tension and even hearing loss. Conservative treatment for TMJ disorder includes wearing a mouthguard to adjust how your upper and lower teeth meet and making alterations to the biting surfaces of your teeth for the same purpose. Surgery is an option for relieving serious symptoms that aren’t eased by those conservative approaches.
What are the surgical options for TMJ?
Arthrocentesis is the least invasive version of TMJ surgery in Okotoks. Fluid is injected into your TMJ to wash out the chemical leftovers associated with inflammation while reducing the pressure that builds up in the joint to cause pain and stiffness. Successful arthrocentesis is usually the first surgical option considered and, when successful, can return some people’s range of motion.
Arthroscopy is a second and more invasive option for TMJ surgery near you, albeit a less invasive option than open jaw surgery (discussed below). During an arthroscopy, a surgeon will make a small hole or holes in the skin near your joint. A small tube called a cannula will be inserted into that hole, after which a tool combining light and camera — called an arthroscope — will be inserted into the cannula to help visualize the interior of the joint. Guided by the images obtained from that arthroscope, your surgeon will operate on the joint using tiny implements also introduced into the joint through the cannula.
Arthroscopy helps surgeons to remove scar tissue, reshape the TMJ, inject medication into the joint and provide relief from swelling. Compared to open-joint surgery, arthroscopy has a much quicker recovery time.
Open-joint surgery involves making an inches-long incision over your TMJ to allow the surgeon access to the joint. This most invasive option for TMJ surgery is appropriate for severe instances of TMJ disorder characterized by: Tissue or bone growth interfering with joint motion; and the fusion of joint tissue, bone or cartilage causing stiffness of the joint called ankylosis. In cases where your surgeon can not reach the affected area of the joint through the minimally invasive arthroscopic approach, open-joint surgery may be the only option for removing bony growths or excess tissue and repairing or repositioning the disc in the joint.
To determine if undergoing TMJ surgery near you is appropriate for your condition, you should discuss your symptoms with a dentist in Okotoks who is familiar with the status and development of your condition. Surgery may be appropriate if your pain and immobility are worsening and non-surgical treatments have not been effective in relieving symptoms. On the other hand, you may not be a good candidate for surgery if: your symptoms are not severe and do not cause pain; your symptoms are inconsistent and potentially explained by mere overuse or repetitive motions, and you are still able to open and close your jaw fully.
A dentist near you can provide non-surgical and surgical options for the full range of typical TMJ symptoms. Whatever your symptoms, discuss them with your dentist while they are minor to allow your dentist to make timely and effective interventions while easing your symptoms can be accomplished quickly and simply.