Surgery for TMJ Disorders

For patients who have failed non-surgical treatments, surgery may be recommended to repair or replace the TMJ.

Surgery is typically reserved for the most severe cases of TMJ disorders. However, if you've tried non-surgical treatments, such as medications, and they haven't worked to control your TMJ symptoms, then your doctor or dentist may recommend surgery to repair or replace the TMJ.

In-depth Articles on Other TMJ Disorders Treatments

If your doctor or dentist recommends you have surgery to treat your TMJ disorder, be aware that surgery has multiple risks. For example, it can permanently change how you bite (the way your upper and lower teeth fit together), and it invades the muscles and other tissues of the jaw and face.

And according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (an arm of the National Institutes of Health), TMJ surgery is controversial and it should be avoided when possible.1

Why Is Surgery for TMJ Disorders so Controversial?
Surgery for TMJ disorders is controversial because it is usually irreversible. Also, there have been no long-term clinical trials that have studied the effectiveness and safety of surgery for TMJ disorders. In addition, there are currently no standards to identify people who would benefit from having TMJ disorder surgery.1

Furthermore, with jaw surgery, sometimes implants are used. Jaw joints may be replaced with artificial implants—and these implants don't always work properly, leading to more extreme pain and damage to your jaw than before the surgery.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors the safety and effectiveness of artificial jaw joint implants. You can view safety information for TMJ implants on the FDA's MedWatch.

What to Do If Your Doctor Recommends Surgery for TMJ Disorders
If your doctor or dentist strongly recommends surgery for a TMJ disorder, ask your doctor to thoroughly explain why and what you should expect—the reason for having surgery, all of the risks involved, the benefits, etc. But in no way should you feel pressured to have surgery.

Also, know that you have the right to get a second opinion. Get another doctor's input on whether he or she thinks surgery is necessary. Ultimately, the decision to have surgery for a TMJ disorder is up to you.

Updated on: 11/19/15