TMJ is a little-understood condition that can be annoying, uncomfortable, and even painful for people who struggle with it. TMJ Disorders affect the temporomandibular joint, the main joint that connects your jaw to the bottom of your skull and allows you open and close your jaw, and is characterized by tightness and discomfort as well as an audible “clicking,” “cracking,” or “popping” sound when opening the jaw. TMJ symptoms can come and go on their own, or they can be treated with a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, specialized TMJ sleeping positions, and even psychotherapy. If non-invasive treatments fail to provide relief, though, it may be time to ask your doctor about surgical options.

What Is TMJ Surgery and When Is Surgery Needed for TMJ?

There are different types of TMJ surgeries designed to alleviate symptoms of TMJ depending on what your orofacial pain specialist has identified as the primary cause of your condition. Because TMJ is often caused by a variety of issues compounding their effects, the primary cause can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. For this reason, TMJ surgery is usually only considered a last resort after other therapies have been attempted.

Arthrocentesis, Arthroscopy, and Open-Joint Surgery are all types of TMJ surgical procedures that have varying levels of invasiveness. The most invasive procedure is a relatively new one called Total Joint Replacement, wherein surgeons replace the joints in the jaw with artificial ones—usually made of a combination of high-density plastic and titanium. This procedure is only recommended for patients who exhibit persistent and severe pain, difficulty eating or speaking due to limited jaw mobility, and other debilitating symptoms that impede their ability to live otherwise normal lives.

What Are the Possible Complications of TMJ Total Joint Replacement?

Confidence in TMJ Replacement procedure is high thanks to relatively new advancements in the field, but as with any surgical procedure, there are risks of potential complications. Complications from Total Joint Replacement include:

  • Infection and allergic reaction to implant components.
  • Facial swelling and facial nerve weakness.
  • Bone growth in an abnormal place
  • Abnormal growth of nerve tissue
  • Ear problems from misalignment
  • Dislocation
  • Possible misalignment of the teeth or bite
  • Continues pain, in which case a specialist will need to provide further treatment options

How Long Does It Take To Recover From TMJ Replacement Surgery?

Recovery from TMJ surgery, especially total joint replacement, can be extensive but is highly dependent on the patient’s individual circumstances. The initial 1-2 weeks of healing will be indicative of the timeline of the recovery process, and strict aftercare protocols must be followed during this time. Some of the factors that influence recovery from TMJ surgery include the initial quality of bone available for grafting, the extent of damage to the joint before surgery, intended outcomes, and complications during and after the procedure. Most patients can expect to be fully healed from a TMJ Replacement Procedure within around 3 months.

What Diet Should I Follow After TMJ Replacement Surgery?

The immediate weeks after your procedure are most crucial to a speedy recovery. Expect to have a liquids-only diet in the first week after your procedure and a soft foods diet for three weeks after that. Hard and crunchy food can place strain on the implant, hindering healing and potentially causing pain or other complications.

Post-Operation Instructions for TMJ Surgery

You will need to take the day of your surgery off from work, and it is preferable to have a few days afterward to rest if your work situation allows. After the procedure, you may have a bandage on your jaw around which your surgeon may place an additional bandage to keep the dressing in place. Your doctor will provide you with any wound care or dressing instructions you need to follow. For a few days after the procedure, you may want to do some of the following:

  • Ask your healthcare provider about which nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain they might recommend and follow their dosing instructions.
  • Drink plenty of water, it’s important to stay hydrated after surgery.
  • Apply a cold compress to the area to help with swelling. The compress can be as simple as a bag of ice or a frozen bag of vegetables wrapped in a clean towel.
  • Warm heat applied to the jaw muscles may also help with comfort after surgery, such as heating pads or microwaving a damp cloth.
  • Dress your bandage so it’s watertight before bathing or showering.
  • Your doctor may instruct you to wear a splint or other structural device on your jaw at all times for a certain amount of time.
  • See your healthcare provider 2 to 3 days after surgery to make sure you’re healing well and to receive any further instructions on taking care of your TMJ.

During your follow-up procedure, your doctor may remove any stitches that haven’t dissolved on their own or update your medication schedule. You may also need to see a physical therapist to help you regain motion in your jaw and to keep swelling from limiting your TMJ motion. Working with a physical therapist may take weeks or months, but patients who do often see better healing results.

Contact Northern Nevada Center for Orofacial Pain to Talk to a Specialist

If you struggle with persistent TMJ symptoms and want to know more about surgical options for treatment, Northern Nevada Center for Orofacial Pain is the only Orofacial pain clinic in Northern Nevada capable of giving you specialized consultation and advice. Our dedicated team of experts can off TMJ treatment in Reno that’s customized to your needs, so call today and schedule your first appointment!