Why You Should Consider TMJ Surgery a Last Resort

TMJ is a complex condition, often with multiple contributing factors. Surgery tends to focus on just one of these factors, typically the jaw joint itself. However, most people with TMJ symptoms are actually suffering because of muscle problems. If we can treat the muscle problems without surgery and prevent them from causing joint problems, we can get better results with less risk. 

Therefore, it’s best to consider other treatment options before looking at TMJ surgery. 

Types of TMJ Surgery

Because TMJ surgery hasn’t had the best success rate, many new surgical approaches have been developed and explored. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Arthrocentesis
  • Arthroscopy
  • Arthroplasty
  • Joint replacement

Other less-common surgical approaches may focus on reshaping and repositioning the upper jaw. These may be more invasive and more risky. 


This is the least invasive type of TMJ surgery, and is basically a type of more involved joint injection. In this procedure, a surgeon will inject saline solution into the joint. The goal is to break up scar tissue in the joint and add more fluid to the joint. This helps lubricate the joint. Injection solutions might include medications. 

The goal is to improve mobility and reduce pain. This surgery has minimal recovery time and the fewest risks. 


This is a laparoscopic procedure. Small insertions let a doctor slide in a scope to view the joint and tiny tools to remove scar tissue and stabilize or reposition the cushioning disc in the joint. 

This type of procedure is usually recommended if your jaw tends to lock closed. You will likely use an oral appliance and get physical therapy as part of your recovery from this procedure. Full recovery will take weeks. Success rate is about 84%. 


Arthroplasty is an open surgery used to accomplish some of the same goals as the above procedures. However, open surgery tends to be recommended if you have bone structures that need to be reshaped or if the disc needs to be removed or replaced. 

It’s hard to find good recent statistics on the success rate of this procedure, but it seems to be less than for arthroscopy. 

Total Joint Replacement

In total joint replacement, your jaw joint is replaced with a synthetic joint. This might be a primary surgery done in response to your TMJ, but sometimes it’s necessary after previous failed surgeries. 

This procedure has a low success rate and a high rate of complications, so it’s used only after previous treatments have proven ineffective or inadequate in your case. 

Consider Nonsurgical TMJ Treatment in Fort Atkinson

Although TMJ surgery might be necessary in some cases, we try to avoid it whenever possible. If you are looking for nonsurgical approaches to dealing with your TMJ or a dentist who can support your surgical procedure, please call (920) 563-7323 today for an appointment with TMJ dentist Dr. Stafford at Bite Align, serving patients from across Jefferson County at our office in Fort Atkinson.