Procedure, Risks Associated and Recovery of TMJ Arthroscopy

Submitted by Nic on December 6, 2013

Arthroscopy is a type of surgical procedure used to address joint disorders both in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Such a type of procedure may be used to flush out the joint to remove scar tissue or reduce thickened cartilage or to inject an anti-inflammatory medicine directing to the joint. TMJ Arthroscopy refers to the surgery performed on patients suffering from TM disorders (most often caused by rheumatoid arthritis).

Other reasons for performing TMJ arthroscopy include:

  • To treat diseases of the joint that may have caused breakdown and damage of the joint
  • To remove adhesions and scar tissue
  • To treat a loosened jaw joint after an injury
  • To address a displaced disc
  • In some cases TMJ may also be used as a diagnostic tool to help diagnose a TM disorder

On the other hand, arthroscopy is not performed if the patient exhibits any of the following:

  • An undiagnosed swelling of the jaw
  • Any untreated infection that could worsen and spread after the surgery
  • The presence of a tumor near the jaw
  • Bony ankylosis or the stiffening of the jaw joints
  • Hearing difficulties as there is a risk that the surgery may damage the ear further
  • Obesity that prevents easy access to the jaw joint through the extra layers of fat and skin.


During the surgery, the doctor will insert an arthroscope (a thin lighted tube) into the jaw joint via a tiny incision in the skin. Surgical instruments are then introduced through the arthroscope and the entire procedure is monitored through a small camera attached to the tube.

During arthroscopic surgery, depending on the nature of the problem, the surgeon may use various surgical instruments to remove scar tissue and adhesions, reshape the jawbone, reposition the disc, flush out the joint or inject medication to the joint area. The entire procedure is done under general anesthesia and can take up to thirty minutes or more depending on the amount of work to be done.


Recovery can take up to a month and the patient will need to follow a strict after care regime. This includes a liquid or soft food diet and restricted jaw movement. Physical therapy is recommended within 48 hours after surgery to ensure smooth movement of the joint and to prevent scarring. Pain and soreness of the jawbone and joint is inevitable and can be managed with painkillers.

Risks Associated

TMJ arthroscopy is considered safer and minimally invasive. However, just like any type of surgery, there are always risks and complications involved. Though uncommon, the risks of TMJ arthroscopic surgery are:

  • Damage to the inner, middle or outer ear
  • Permanent hearing loss
  • Infection of the joint

In most cases, if TMJ arthroscopy is recommended, most experts suggest getting a second opinion. Due to the invasive nature of the procedure and the expenses and risks involved, a non-surgical treatment is always preferable.

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