Millions of patients suffer from the painful effects of temporomandibular disorder, or TMD. Their symptoms often include pain, clicking or popping of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), headaches, earaches, and a host of other problems. Dr. Alfredo Gapuz of Aesthetic and General Dentistry in Orlando, FL, is specially trained to treat this condition. He and his staff have a wide range of therapeutic procedures to handle most cases. When these treatments are ineffective, TMJ surgery can be performed as a last resort. When it is necessary, patients generally want to know what is involved and how long it will take for full recovery.
What is TMJ Surgery?
TMJ surgery is never the treatment of choice for TMD. However, when conservative treatment options do not achieve the intended result, surgery may be necessary. It is especially indicated when pathological conditions exist inside the joint that can only be corrected with direct access. These include such anomalies as bony projections, scar tissue, or displacement or damage to the soft pad (meniscus or articular disk) that supports the TMJ. When properly diagnosed and performed by a skilled surgeon, TMJ surgery can eliminate pain and restore proper function to the jaw. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons routinely perform three basic types of TMJ surgery:
- Arthrocentesis surgery is the most conservative type of TMJ surgery and the one that involves the least recovery time—usually two or three days. It is typically performed in the surgeon's office using local anesthetic and intravenous (IV) sedation. During this procedure, the surgeon uses a needle injection to irrigate the joint space and inject corticosteroids and other medications.
- Arthroscopy can also be performed in the surgeon's office with local anesthetic and IV sedation, and it generally requires about a week of recovery time. During this procedure, the surgeon makes a tiny incision over the joint and inserts an arthroscope. This allows the surgeon to see inside the joint and take any necessary corrective action, such as removing inflamed tissue remnants and repositioning the soft tissue meniscus that supports the joint.
- Arthroplasty is the third and most invasive form of TMJ surgery. It is usually performed in a hospital operating room using general anesthesia, and recovery can take two weeks or more. This requires a larger incision to allow the surgeon direct access to the joint. He can then remove inflamed tissues and bony projections that may be interfering with the proper function of the joint. He can also reposition and repair damage that may have occurred to the meniscus.
TMJ surgery is never the treatment of choice for TMD. However, when conservative treatment options do not achieve the intended result, surgery may be necessary.
Primary Conservative Treatment
Dr. Gapuz prefers to use the most conservative methods possible to treat his patients who suffer from TMD. Treatments such as orthotics (night guards), bite adjustment, jaw stretching exercises, and stress reduction techniques are far less invasive and expensive than surgery. As a Las Vegas Institute alumnus with a focus on neuromuscular dentistry, Dr. Gapuz has more in-depth diagnostics than those of a traditional dentist. In those cases where conservative treatment is not enough, Dr. Gapuz will use neuromuscular dentistry for advanced diagnostics to determine if TMJ surgery is necessary. If so, he can refer patients to a skilled surgeon for their procedure.
Schedule Your Consultation
Those who are suffering from TMD are encouraged to contact Dr. Gapuz and his team at Aesthetic and General Dentistry for help. He will carefully evaluate each patient and, using leading-edge innovations in TMD therapy, restore them to health and comfort. Contact our office online or call (407) 871-6798 to schedule a consultation.