UPDATE: For detailed information and practical steps to help you beat TMJ disorder naturally, take a look at TMJ No More.
For those suffering from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, surgery should be sought as a last resort.
Some argue that it should not ever be considered - even as a last resort.
With minimal literature available and nominal case studies to reference, most medical professionals jeer at the notion. There are oral and maxillofacial surgeons who are willing to perform the risky surgery, but it should not be taken lightly.
It is a very serious procedure.
With a number of safer options to choose from, treating TMJ non-surgically is the best approach.
TMJ surgery Options
According to David Hoffman, DDS and Leann Piug, DMD, there are three main types of surgeries offered for the treatment of TMJ.
As is true of any surgery, complications may arise; however the inherent nature of these procedures makes them rank higher on the totem pole.
The first type, arthroscopic surgery has the least risk.
It involves a surgeon using a scope or small camera to look at the temporomandibular joint. A tiny incision 5 mm long is cut for instrument insertion and disks are sutured to the joint.
There is often bruising, but if the surgery is devoid of complication, recovery takes approximately one week.
Open arthoplasty is more risky than arthroscopic.
An incision similar to that used during a facelift, runs along the ear and remains open during surgery.
During open arthoplasty, the patient is put under anesthesia so that the surgeon can remove bone spurs, tumors, bony or fibrous ankylosis, while also removing any sutures that may have been placed in prior.
Various implants, like muscle grafts and ribs may also be inserted during this procedure.
Lastly, total joint reconstruction is the riskiest of the three. It involves surgery to implant an artificial orthopedic device to replace the fossa (ball) and condyle (socket) parts of the jaw.
The medical grade plastic prosthetics purpose is to restore the jaw back to normal function.
Surgery for TMJ is considered an irreversible procedure that can possibly cause more harm than good if complications should arise.
Possible complications of TMJ surgery
As with any treatment, the benefits need outweigh the risk.
Anatomic complications may arise, affecting not only the area operated on, but also those surrounding areas.
A second complication involves the neurovascular system, which pertains to blood vessels and nerves.
Internal bleeding of the maxillary artery is a concern. The neurovascular system is carefully monitored, but even in the most skillful hands, complications happen.
In severe cases, the TMJ nerve becomes permanently damaged.
Although infection is the most rare of all complications, it is undoubtedly the most dangerous. The incidence is about 2% of all TMJ operations; however, in the event infection occurs, it can have lethal repercussions for a patient.
Lastly, biomechanical and autoimmune complications can arise when prosthetics are used, generally seen in total joint reconstruction surgery.
The body can reject the foreign body, causing a number of unfavorable results.
Risks of TMJ surgery
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommends avoiding surgery to remedy the symptoms associated with TMJ.
The institute claims it should be avoided completely as the risks are severe.
The surgery is particularly invasive, affecting crucial facial muscles and other vital tissues. It also presents a permanent threat to a patient’s bite, creating a permanent risk to the way in which their upper and lower teeth fit together.
Concurrently, there has been little research and testing done on TMJ surgery, making doctors and dentist apprehensive to perform the procedure.
There is substantial uncertainty among medical professions of the worthiness to substantiate surgery.
Non-surgical options for TMJ disorder
If the list of surgeries and their risky complications are enough to scare you off the operating table, there are plenty of other options.
Don’t stress. That will only make your TMJ symptoms worse.
Here are some better choices.
Acupuncture has been well tolerated among patients and has proven great results, providing relief to symptomatic patients.
Fine needles 25-50 times thinner than hypodermic needles are injected into problematic areas.
Direct nerve stimulation reduces pain and prevents symptoms from recurring over time.
If TMJ symptoms occur from Bruxism or teeth grinding, a night guard can create a barrier between the upper and lower teeth.
It is important to schedule a visit with a dentist or orthodontist prior to wearing a dental night guard to ensure the teeth and jaw aren’t misaligned. If there is misalignment, a specialized acrylic splint should be constructed and adjusted to fit properly.
Night guards purchased online can be a more cost effective choice if there are no misalignment issues.
Botox helps relieves TMJ symptoms by paralyzing the overused masseter muscles in the jaw.
When these muscles are unable to move, they no longer are able to clench or grind. Botox, also known as botulin toxin type A, is a neurotoxin used to treat muscle spasms, muscle stiffness, chronic migraine and headaches.
It also treats pain that radiates from the in the jaw up to the ears, through the shoulders and down the neck and back.
Many of those who suffer from TMJ have probably experiences headaches as a result.
Botox treatment relieves TMJ headaches by relaxing the injection site and surrounding areas.
As TMJ may be caused by vigorous chewing, any type of food that causes fatigue to the jaw should be avoided.
Chewy food creates more wear on the joint and depending on the severity of TMJ, may be enough to lock the jaw. Tough food such as beef jerky creates the same obstacle.
Hard candies should be sucked, not bitten. Bruxism is a major contributor to TMJ and can cause teeth to wear down and even crack. If you are aware that you grind your teeth, hard candy could be your worst enemy.
Lastly, avoid any food that has to be bitten off.
This forceful movement can aggravate symptoms and create a few you didn’t already have.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
NSAIDs like Motrin and Celebrex can help reduce inflammation and reduce pain.
Some may interact with other drugs, so make sure you check with your doctor begin use.
There are also known side effects to some NSAIDs.
Another non-surgical option is physical therapy, which focuses on retraining your jaw muscles and incorporating relaxation techniques to use at home.
A goal of therapy is to reduce scar tissue and reduce pain. Sessions will utilize heat and ice therapy, ultrasounds, and provide TMJ specific massages.
A qualified TMJ physical therapist should know the proper massage techniques so as to not further injure the jaw.
They will also work with you to correct alignment of the jaw.
Finally, the use of corticosteroid injections to reduce pain should be your last option before ever considering surgery.
It has been proven to reduce symptoms in symptomatic patients, but The TMJ Association warns that cartilage and fibrous tissue can be damaged due to injections.
Similar to the warnings presented about surgery, there is too little information about the effects.
Take the High Road
Surgical procedures should be avoided at almost any cost.
There are a number of superlative non-surgical remedies that can help. There is hope for TMJ relief.
Every person is different and what works for one may not work for another, but these are sure to take a little less stress out of your day…and out of your jaw.