What is Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Arthroplasty?

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) arthroplasty is a surgical procedure that treats TMJ pain, arthritis, or other issues. The temporomandibular joints are formed by the lower jaw and the skull and are located in front of either ear. The joint functions when you are opening and closing your mouth. As the mouth opens, a disc inside the joint slides on a part of the top of the lower jaw, called the condyle. TMJ problems can arise when this disc is displaced or when the condyle wears down. If non-surgical options fail to treat your symptoms, TMJ arthroplasty is an option.

TMJ arthroplasty can reposition, reshape, or replace parts of the joint. Your surgeon will make an incision in front of the ear and reshape any damaged bone. If the condyle is healthy, surgery will focus on repairing or repositioning the disc. In the event of a totally worn down disc, your surgeon will remove it. If there is concern that your bones will fuse, the disc may be replaced with synthetic or natural materials.

TMJ replacement is typically reserved for severe cases that have not responded to other surgeries, such as when the joint is unable to open and close. Incisions are made in front of the ear and under the jaw. Usually, adults will receive a metal prosthesis (artificial joint), while younger patients will receive a prosthesis made from their own rib or collarbone. Whether all or only part of the joint is replaced depends on the extent of damage.

Following your procedure, you should be able to go home the same day. Swelling is normal after surgery, and it should go down after 3-4 days. You may be given medication for any pain you experience. You will also need to undergo physical therapy in order to prevent scarring and keep your joint active while you recover.