Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Arthroscopy for Temporomandibular Disorders
For arthroscopic jaw surgery, the surgeon inserts a pencil-thin, lighted tube (arthroscope) into the jaw joint through a small incision in the skin. The arthroscope is connected to a small camera outside the body that transmits a close-up image of the joint to a TV monitor.
The surgeon can insert surgical instruments through the arthroscope to do surgery on the joint, preventing the need for more surgical incisions. This technique is used to diagnose and treat temporomandibular disorders (TMD).
During arthroscopic surgery, the surgeon may:
Procedures are done under general anesthesia and usually take 30 minutes or longer depending upon the type of procedure.
After surgery, you may start physical therapy within 48 hours in order to maintain movement and prevent scar tissue from forming. You may also use a mechanical device that gently moves your jaw joint (continuous passive motion).
Your jaw movement may be limited for at least a month. And you may need to follow a diet of liquid and soft foods.
Arthroscopy can also be used to flush out the joint (lavage) or to inject an anti-inflammatory medicine. This can be especially helpful to people who have TMDs caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthroscopy can be used to treat TMDs involving:
This procedure may also be used to diagnose a TMD ( diagnostic arthroscopy).
Arthroscopy is not done when there is:
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that can effectively treat TMDs. An arthroscopic surgery can effectively treat a TMD with fewer and less severe complications compared with an open-joint surgery.footnote 1
Complications of arthroscopic temporomandibular surgery are uncommon but include:
Any surgical changes to the bone and soft tissue are irreversible and can create new problems in the joint's delicate balance. Scar tissue results from surgery that involves muscles, tendons, and ligaments and is likely to restrict jaw movement to some extent.
When possible, a nonsurgical approach is preferred over surgery, because the treatment is cheaper, safer, noninvasive, and involves less risk of permanent damage.
Current practice trends are to avoid altering disc position or structure. After disc replacement, an adverse reaction to an artificial disc is possible.
If your doctor recommends surgery, experts agree that it is best to get a second opinion.
Tucker MR, et al. (2008). Management of temporomandibular disorders. In JR Hupp et al., eds., Contemporary Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 5th ed., pp. 629–649. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Current as of: March 25, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 25, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.