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The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) refers to either one of the two joints connecting your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull.
TMJ disorders (TMJDs or TMDs) are problems with one or both of these joints. TMD symptoms include:
The exact causes of most TMDs aren’t well understood, but experts have found associations with certain genetic and hormonal factors. Potential risk factors for TMJD include:
TMDs often come on suddenly and resolve on their own just as quickly. But in some cases, they are persistent (chronic) and require professional attention.
Few people with TMD require surgery. Doctors only recommend TMJ surgery for severe cases when other conservative, non-invasive treatments have failed.
You may be a candidate for TMJ surgery if you have:
TMJ surgery is generally irreversible. In addition, there’s no guarantee it will solve the problem.
For these reasons, experts recommend people suffering from TMDs try conservative, non-invasive treatments first. Surgery may be a logical next step in cases where other treatments have failed to resolve serious TMJ dysfunction.
Your doctor can help you determine if surgery is necessary.
Once your doctor has determined you as a candidate for TMJ surgery, they will decide which type is most appropriate for you.
Five types of surgical procedures address TMJ disorders. They range from minimally invasive outpatient treatments to intensive open-joint surgery.
Arthrocentesis, also known as joint aspiration, is a minimally invasive procedure. It involves flushing the jaw joint with fluid from a syringe to remove tissue debris and reduce inflammation.
Arthrocentesis may be performed under general anesthesia or a combination of local anesthesia and IV sedation.
It’s generally an outpatient procedure, so you can go home the same day. It may take about half an hour to perform.
During the procedure, a surgeon will:
Arthrocentesis can cost $300 or more.
Arthroscopic surgery involves opening one or several holes in the skin above the TMJ. Your doctor will use that opening to perform needed procedures on the joint.
TMJ arthroscopy requires general anesthesia. It’s slightly more invasive than arthrocentesis and may take longer.
It’s an outpatient procedure during which a surgeon will:
Arthroscopy can cost $5,000 or more per joint.
Rather than simply inserting tools through tiny incisions, open-joint surgery is more intensive. The joint space is opened completely to expose the jaw joint.
Open-joint TMJ surgery may take 1 to 2 hours and is performed under general anesthesia. You may need to spend the night in the hospital afterward.
During the procedure, your surgeon will:
The cost of open-joint surgery for TMJ disorders varies widely depending on the specifics of the procedure. It can cost $5,000 on the low end or up to tens of thousands of dollars.
TMJ replacement is a special kind of open-joint TMJ surgery. Once the joint is exposed, your surgeon will replace it with bone taken from elsewhere in your body or with a prosthesis.
Joint replacement surgery is an inpatient procedure and may take more than an hour under general anesthesia.
Your surgeon will:
TMJ replacement costs include both open-joint surgery and the replacement material itself. It may cost from $40,000 to $70,000.
A condylotomy is a kind of osteotomy that is essentially a controlled fracture.
The name condylotomy comes from the condyle, which is the rounded end of your lower jaw that fits into the TMJ. Increasing the amount of space for the condyle to move may ease TMJ pain and locking.
A modified condylotomy takes place under general anesthesia and lasts less than 2 hours. You may be able to go home the same day, but you’ll need several weeks to heal fully.
During the procedure, your surgeon will:
A modified condylotomy typically costs between $15,000 and $30,000.
The cost of TMJ surgery depends primarily on the type.
|Type of TMJ Surgery||Cost|
|Arthroscopy||$5,000+ per joint|
|Temporomandibular Joint Replacement||$40,000 to $70,000|
|Modified Condylotomy||$15,000 to $30,000|
Insurance may or may not cover all or part of the costs of TMJ surgery. It depends on your insurance provider and your specific plan.
The cost of TMJ surgery can vary widely, depending on whether your insurance provides coverage and how your doctor prices the procedure.
Complications may result from invasive TMJ procedures. These include:
In some cases, these issues may require additional surgeries. Talk to your doctor for a better understanding of the procedure and to discuss specific risk factors.
Recovery time from TMJ surgery depends on the specific procedure. Generally, the more invasive the surgery, the longer your jaw will take to heal.
|Arthrocentesis (Minimally Invasive)||After 1 to 3 days, you should be able to return to work, school, or other obligations. Your doctor might recommend jaw exercises and a soft diet.|
|Arthroscopy (Minimally Invasive)||Recovery can take anywhere from a couple of days to a week.You may receive physical therapy following recovery.You might be required to keep a soft diet for several weeks as your jaw heals.|
|Open-Joint Surgery or Joint Replacement (Invasive)||A full recovery may take anywhere from 2 weeks to several months.Recovery may be more painful than for less invasive procedures.Physical therapy will be a part of the recovery process.|
|Modified Condylotomy (Invasive)||You may need up to a week to rest before returning to work, school, or other obligations.Your doctor will use rubber bands to hold your upper and lower jaws together for several weeks.You’ll be required to follow a soft or liquid diet.|
Depending on the kind of surgery you’ve had, you may need days, weeks, or even months to heal and resume normal activities.
In the meantime, here are some guidelines:
You may not be a candidate for TMJ surgery. Your doctor may want you to try more conservative treatments before resorting to surgical procedures.
Less invasive treatments for TMD include:
In most cases, doctors and dentists only recommend TMJ surgery after these treatments have failed.
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