TMJ arthrocentesis is a surgical procedure done on the temporomandibular (or jaw) joint. It is considered a minor procedure, and is generally performed in the oral and maxillofacial surgeon’s office or in an outpatient surgical center.
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon will often recommend TMJ arthrocentesis when conservative therapies have not proven to be successful, when a patient’s jaw is locked open or closed, or if he or she has a limited opening (although there may be other reasons not listed here).
How TMJ Arthrocentesis is Performed
The surgery is usually done under light sedation (“twilight” or IV sedation). The arthrocentesis is done by inserting needles into the affected joint space by the ear, while sterile solution is used to wash out the joint and surrounding areas. The idea is that this ‘wash out’ will remove any extra scar tissue and increase mobility in the joint. At this point steroids, lubricants, or other medications may be injected. Typically, there is no scar or stitches.
After the arthrocentesis, recovery time is minimal. Many patients report that they take one to two days off work, mostly to recover from the IV sedation. Surgeons usually advise the patient to continue their soft diet and use ice and heat as directed. As always, please consult your doctor with any questions about your care.
Advantages & Disadvantages
Arthrocentesis is the least invasive TMJ surgery. It is also the least expensive. Since it is usually done in the office or in an outpatient surgical center and has a relatively easy recovery, many patients believe that these are advantages. However, the surgeon can not see inside the joint during this procedure, and even though some patients experience relief, many have told us that they notice no difference in pain relief at all or feel worse.
Price & Insurance Coverage
The typical price for an arthrocentesis varies by geographical area. TMJ surgery insurance coverage also varies, from company to company as well as state to state. Please check with your local insurance commissioner to find details on the laws in your area. It is wise to speak with your insurance company before your surgery and have a written confirmation of coverage available for any disputes that may arise. If your insurance company does not cover TMJ arthrocentesis, it is sometimes possible to negotiate the fee if paying in cash. We also have tips on communicating with your insurance company about TMJ surgery or treatment.
TMJ surgery of any kind is controversial. Currently, there is very little scientific research showing that TMJ arthrocentesis relieves jaw pain, restores joint function, or resolves any other TMJ disorder related issues. Patients considering any type of TMJ surgery, including arthrocentesis, should always be informed of their options and understand that pain relief is never guaranteed. Second opinions are encouraged when considering any type of TMJ treatment.
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