All the TMJ information in one place!

If you’ve been experiencing facial pain from normal things that shouldn’t cause discomfort, you may be suffering from a form of TMJ. The trouble with jaw pain is that it can greatly impact quality of life, not only causing chronic pain but forsaking the ability to enjoy good food and even affecting speech. 

There are solutions to TMJ and the Alaska Center For Oral + Facial Surgery is here to support you in your journey. Get a better understanding of facial pain and TMJ in today’s post. 

All About TMJ

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the source and cause of many people’s facial pain that prevents them from chewing and speaking without discomfort. The TMJ is a small joint located in front of the ears right at the junction of the jaw and skull that allows movement and function in the jaw. 

The complexity of this joint is that not only does it involve a hinge action (moving your jaw up and down) but a sliding motion that glides from side-to-side. The structure of this joint is surrounded in cartilage complete with a small, shock-absorbing disk that keeps the joint running smoothly. 

TMJ can become quite painful from the following:

  • An eroding disc
  • The cartilage begins to erode
  • The joint is damaged from trauma

What are the risk factors for developing TMJ?

While it’s unclear why some develop TMJ and others don’t, there are some risk factors including:

  • Arthritis (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid)
  • Jaw trauma
  • Chronic teeth grinding or clenching
  • Connective tissue diseases

What causes TMJ?

While the cause of TMJ will vary from person-to-person, there are a combination of factors such as facial trauma, genetics, and teeth clenching or grinding. In most cases, TMJ can be managed through non-surgical treatments, but there are some who may benefit from TMJ surgery.   

Severe TMJ 

What are the symptoms of TMJ? 

The symptoms of TMJ vary by the individual from mild to severe, but can present in the following ways:

  • Chronic pain when you open and close your mouth
  • The inability to open your mouth all the way
  • Problems eating and drinking
  • The pain or immobility in your jaw begins to worsen

How is TMJ diagnosed?

If you begin to experience symptoms associated with TMJ, it is important to schedule an appointment with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to diagnose the condition. It can be difficult to diagnose TMJ and it may involve a host of diagnostics, including imaging of the joint, and bringing in other specialists to help confirm the diagnosis.

TMJ Surgery

Now that we have a better understanding of what TMJ is, let’s look into surgery as a TMJ treatment option. 

Oral surgeons typically only treat the most severe cases with surgery. TMJ surgery is generally contraindicated when the symptoms aren’t severe. So, if you have clicking and popping in your jaw, but there is no pain, there may be other options to try.  

Inconsistent symptoms might also rule out surgery because they could be related to overuse or repetitive motions that can be remedied with rest. 

One last thing to point out is that if you have full jaw mobility, some may not recommend surgery because the risks may outweigh the benefits.   

TMJ surgery is serious and therefore you need an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has experience with TMJ cases — surgery is often the last resort if other treatment methods were unsuccessful. 

If you have worked with a skilled oral surgeon who has experience treating TMJ through surgery, there are a few different surgeries that are possible depending on your specific case, based on the symptoms and severity. 


This TMJ surgery is performed by making a few small incisions above the joint where a small, narrow tube called a cannula is inserted and the arthroscope can be placed. Once the oral surgeon is able to get in and see what’s going on, they can use small surgical instruments through the cannula to operate on the joint. 

This is one of the least invasive TMJ surgical options with a shorter recovery time that ranges from a couple of days to a week.

This surgery is a great option for pain and swelling relief, the removal of scar tissue, medication injection, and reshaping or altering the joint. 


Arthrocentesis is an ideal option for those who have a limited range of mobility in their joint because it injects fluid straight to the joint to reduce swelling and improve stiffness to help you regain jaw mobility.

This is minimally invasive and is an outpatient procedure with a short recovery time. Oral surgeons typically like to use this approach first because it less invasive than the others. 

Open-Joint TMJ Surgery

This is the most invasive surgery where an oral surgeon makes an incision over the joint to operate. This surgery is required in severe cases of TMJ where the patient has an abundance of tissue or bone overgrowth, a fusion of the tissue, cartilage, or bone, or the surgeon is unable to reach the joint through arthroscopy. 

In an open-joint surgery, the oral surgeon has a direct view and access to the joint where they can reposition the disc or remove excess growth. 

If the disc is in bad shape and irreparable, a discectomy may be performed and an artificial disc or other tissue may be inserted.  

TMJ Takeaway

TMJ causes facial pain and discomfort and limits mobility of the jaw which impedes the ability to chew and speak. And while there are a variety of risk factors and causes, the treatment of TMJ will vary. 

Mild cases can benefit from other approaches besides surgery, while the most severe cases may require surgery. TMJ surgeries — including arthroscopy, arthrocentesis, and open-joint surgery — can help repair a damaged joint, bone and tissue overgrowth, and deliver pain relief from swelling and stiffness.  

The Alaska Center For Oral + Facial Surgery Does TMJ Surgery!

If you have a TMJ dysfunction that warrants surgery, we may be able to help! Connect with us and learn more about our TMJ treatments.