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TMJ Surgery Tips – What Has Helped You Through Recovery?

TMJ surgery recovery tips

TMJ Surgery Recovery Arthrocentesis Arthroscopy Arthroplasty

TMJ surgery can be a nerve wracking process if you are not prepared…but if you take some time to anticipate what you might need, and learn from patients who have been through it before you, we think you will feel empowered and less nervous.
I have talked with many TMJ disorder patients over the years, and they have shared their tips for surgery with me. After a while, I noticed most of the advice was very similar… it didn’t matter if the patient was having a TMJ arthroplasty, arthrocentesis, or any other type of TMJ surgery.
Most patients felt MUCH better and less nervous if they took the time before jaw surgery to prepare, become knowledgeable about their condition and particular procedure, go over the options, and talk with and get support from fellow patients who had been through the same thing before them. I don’t think this is unique for TMJ, it applies to any kind of surgery!
Here are some specific tips to help you prepare for surgery:

  • Test out different types of meal replacement shakes (Ensure, Boost), or protein powders *before surgery so that you know which ones you like the most.
  • Purchase supportive pillowsto keep yourself comfortable in bed. Everyone is different, but the most mentioned pillows are back wedges, neck supports, and regular pillows to put on either side of you to support your arms while you need to be laying upright.
  • Set up your bed area and nightstands or couch so that you do not need to bend over, get up, or move around to find things when you are recovering.
  • Get your prescriptions filled before the surgery.
  • Depending on what your doctor recommends, a child sized toothbrush or water-pik could be useful if you cannot open your mouth very wide.
  • Stock up on your favorite frozen veggies to make moldable ice packs (we like frozen peas or corn).
  • Buy pajamas that do not have to be put on over your head.
  • Robes are also convenient if you get hot or cold easily, or if you will be having visitors in the hospital.  Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Robes are SO soft, they are my favorites & the ones I always give as gifts.  Click below for more tips and to share your tips!
  • Stock up on your favorite soft or liquid foods at the grocery store. Prepare soups and other foods before surgery and freeze them in meal size containers. Pay attention to super foods such as greek yogurt, blueberries and pomegranate (more recipes)
  • Consider downloading movies online, using a free TV/movie streaming service like Hulu, or buying a subscription to Netflix to pass the time. Chances are that in the first few days it will just be background noise while you rest…but if you have a family member staying with you, they could probably use the entertainment.
  • Netbooks or small laptops you can use easier in bed so that you can stay in touch with your friends here at TMJ Hope!
  • Consider buying a shower chair, bench, or even a plastic lawn chair to put in the shower so that you do not have to stand when you are exhausted and uneasy on your feet.
  • Animals and children may be difficult to take care of in the first few days after surgery. See if they can go to Grandma’s to visit!

Whether you will be having a TMJ arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, arthroplasty, or even a total joint replacement, hopefully these tips will help you recover much easier!
Remember that TMJ Hope has a wealth of knowledge from people who have been through it. No matter how silly you may feel the question is, please ask it. You never know if the next person may have the exact same questions (or the answer!).
Do you have any tips to share that helped you get through jaw surgery?

20 thoughts on “TMJ Surgery Tips – What Has Helped You Through Recovery?”

  1. Make sure your ride home from the hospital is in a cushy car with good shock absorbers. We didn’t think about it and my husband picked me up in our funky Jeep that bounced and banged all the way home. It was terrible! Especially because there was another option if we’d just thought it through!

  2. Hi Valerie! Thank you, that’s a great suggestion! I will add it when I make this into an article.
    I can totally remember holding my breath going over train tracks and potholes. I think I still do it! 😉

  3. All of those surgery tips are great!!! I have used MANY of those for both of my arthroscopies. A few others..
    1) Discuss with your anesthisiologist about possible nausea and your drive home after surgery. With my second surgery, my anesthesia was tweaked and I had a pleasant, nausea-free (3 1/2 hour) ride home!
    2) Get a moldable heat pack to use after you’re done with the prescribed time of ice.
    3) Baby spoons work great when you have limited opening of your mouth.
    4) When you’re getting liquids and soft foods ready before surgery, try to get different flavors/seasonings/textures if possible. The same flavor energy drink, eggs, yogurt, etc get old fast.
    5) The head/face wrap they give you feels good and keeps your jaw/face nice and snug; however, keep in mind that sooner than later it needs to come off and you have to start opening your mouth. It may not be fun or comfortable, but necessary for recovery. The first surgery’s recovery was much easier than the second surgery’s recovery. The truth can hurt!
    I love TMJ Hope!! 🙂

  4. Jessica!! I can’t believe I didn’t write back to you. I had it all written out and I must have forgotten to press submit. I’m sorry! Thank you so much for your tips! I will definitely add them to the list.
    And thank you for the compliment. We love you, too! It’s so great to have people who appreciate what we’re doing, you have no idea. Sometimes it can get lonely late at night writing these posts 😉
    Anyway, thank you!!!! Please let us know if there is anything we can ever help you with. 🙂

  5. What is this about laying on your back? Do you have to sleep on your back after TMJ surgery, and if so, for how long? I can’t sleep on my back without drowning in my own spit and I can’t sleep sitting up without slumping forward during the process, so I would pretty much have to not sleep.
    I had also read descriptions of procedures that retain as much of the original anatomy as possible, but that’s not very descriptive. Does the surgery change the appearance of your face? If so, by how much?

  6. Hi A, I understand what you mean. I also used to slump forward or to the side… then someone taught me how to set up the bed so I didn’t do either (at least not nearly as much… there was the occasional time I would wake up in some weird position). I’m not sure if this works for anyone else, but it did work for me…. so here goes 😉
    First, I definitely suggest doing a couple nights of a trial run prior to your surgery to see what works best for you & what you need to tweak. 🙂
    Anyway, what I did was gather TONS of pillows (seriously – the more the merrier!) and had someone help set me up in bed. I had a bed wedge behind me, but not the really steep kind that makes you slump over… if you don’t have a bed wedge, just stack pillows… but the main goal is to get your torso and head at an angle (I think about 30%, but don’t quote me on that one). Otherwise, if you sleep with your head level with your body, it will hurt more.
    After you have your back and head supported, get comfortable and raise your arms up…have someone *firmly* push at least one (two worked better for me) pillow underneath your arm so that your arm is level with your body instead of pulling down on your neck muscles. Make sure the pillow is all the way up to your armpit. It should be going lengthwise..running parallel to your body. Repeat on the other side.
    This has the side effect of giving your body a barrier so it doesn’t move very much.
    You can also stack some pillows (or a knee wedge if you want to get one) underneath your knees to help relieve more pressure & help with ergonomics.
    As far as the question about surgery changing the face…. it’s hard to say, it really depends on the type of surgery. What surgery will you be having?
    I hope this helps answer your questions! 🙂

  7. I had bilateral arthroscopy yesterday and I can’t sleep on my back either, however, I have not had an issue sleeping on either side as long as I put my hand between my head and pillow just above my ear.
    Also I wasn’t prepared for blood clots in my ears, when they got itchy and I went to clean my ears I was really shocked to pull out blood clots. Just a forwarning to anyone else.
    But, for one day post op I have very little pain, just like an earache, and I’m opening about 30 mm so far (Dr wanted me to start my exercises with 15 stacked tongue depressors, but so far I’m only up to 14 – started with 10).

  8. Hi Judy, thank you for your comment! I’m glad to hear you haven’t had too much pain. Take it easy and baby yourself if you can… After a couple of my surgeries I pushed myself too hard and ended up paying for it later. In any case, I hope that you continue having a smooth recovery! If you feel up to it, would you like to document your story/surgery process? If so, just let me know (stacy AT tmjhope DOT org). We can always benefit from hearing more patient stories! 🙂

  9. Hey Stacy, there’s not much to document. LOL
    I started a topic in the forum before my surgery.
    I hate babying myself, but I’m trying my best. The exercises are very painful and I did call the Dr’s office today to ask if I’m supposed to force it wide enough, they said “unfortunately, yes”, I was scared to because I didn’t want to cause any damage. But other than the exercises, just watching movies and sleeping, still eating mostly liquids as well (smoothies, soups, yogurt, etc) with some scrabbled eggs for protein (didn’t know before that you can actually eat them by squishing them with your tongue against the roof of your mouth. lol). My back teeth still won’t touch, but the swelling’s not bad.

  10. I had bilateral arthoplasty 8 years ago.
    I started out with arthocentesis (several times) before the Doc thought it a good idea to get contrast films (switched Docs). Surprise, I needed arthoplasty. I had the procedure performed 2/26/02. I might mention this was my first surgery EVER. After I got home, I was in the same predicament. It hurts, what to eat, etc? Here’s what I found…(Please keep in mind I am a jaw clencher, so if that’s not your problem, you may not need all these treatments). Keep up with the liquid foods. Add protein shakes and any other form of protein you can find. I know it gets old, but eventually you will be able to move onto things like pasta or potatoes and it will seem like a fine delicacy! Don’t be afraid to open your mouth, but don’t push it past where it starts to be painful. It is like stretching any muscle, don’t push it-eventually you’ll be able to open wider, but you don’t want to push it too far. Ice or heat, whichever your doc recommends (Ice always worked best for me). Take your pain pills and ask your Doc about adding muscle relaxers if he/she has not already done so. I (eventually) found a physical therapist who has helped me immensely. They are few and far between, but there are PT’s out there who treat TMJ Disorder. She would move the joint (very slightly) back and forth to get the joint fluid back into the joint. Have your doc write up the script as chronic neck pain or some similar ailment if you DO have neck pain (I did) and your insurance does not cover the TM joint. Get a night guard if you clench your teeth and wear it 24/7! My Oral Surgeon made my first one ($1,500). I had my dentist make the second one ($350). I wore mine day and nighr for months, then transitioned to wearing it only at night. If you are a few months out from your surgery, ask your Doc about Botox in the surrounding muscles (if you are a clencher). Most importantly, take all the time off you need. I returned to work too soon and really paid for it.
    I did (in 2006) have an additional issue when I broke one of the wires in my joint. The Doc had never seen this in his 17 years of performing the surgery, so unlikely to happen to you. However, since I had all these other tools in place, the recovery was really a breeze. My Doc also has me on Celebrex in an attempt to prevent arthritis in the joint. The drug is controversial, but it works for me.
    Hang in there – it DOES get better…it just takes awhile!

  11. So I’m scared sh-tless for lack of better words. When I was 14 (27 now) I had an mri @ the maxiofacial surgeons office, and my jaw back then was trashed. Well just recently its gone reallllllly down hill. I’m scared. I’m scared of lockjaw, I’m scared of having my mouth wired shut, i’m scared of ins…itc. Speaking of which, I just got insurance, and I’m hoping this is considered medical and not dental. Anybody know? I hate this. I’m sick of being scared and in pain…..

    1. @michellew Hi Michelle, I’m so sorry I missed your comment! I hope you come back and post again!
      You may not need to have your jaw wired shut (not all TMJ surgeries call for it). As far as insurance goes, that also depends on the type of surgery.. Do you know what type of surgery you will be having? There is information about insurance here:
      I promise it gets less scary if you read up on it and talk to others who have had the same surgeries. We’re here for you! Hope you feel better soon! 🙂

  12. I am new to this site. I am glad it is here. I have had TMJ for 22 years. I have had braces, 14 different nightguards none of which helped and 1 arthoscopic surgery 17 years ago. I am now once again in chronic pain. My husband would ask if my jaw was hurting at the end of the day. I finally told him, “Don’t ask if it hurts. Instead ask how bad its hurts.” I start out with a slight ache maybe a 2 in the morning and by the end of the day I am at a 8-10 with a headache to go along. I am so grouchy at the end of the day. I don’t feel like I am a good wife or mom. I have no patience or anything else left to give. I teach 1st grade. My job does not help my condition. I have been sent to an oral/maxillofacial surgeon in CA. I have seen him 4 times in the last 2yrs. I really do like him. He has tried a variety of treatments to no avail. Now, he is recommending arthroscopy/arthroplasty surgery. Has anyone had this surgery? Can anyone tell me the difference between the 2? I am home now and processing what he is recommending and now the questions are coming to mind. I guess I was in shock when he recommended it. I’m not sure why. I knew it was probably heading that way. I have had numerous MRIs. The last one 2yrs. ago showed arthritis in both joints as well as both joints dislocated. I’m just wondering what anyone can tell me about this surgery. Thanks for your help. Carrie

  13. Hi,
    I have TMJ for approx. 20 years. Over the past three years the pain has gotten very bad. For the past six months I have had to take pain pills several times a day to keep the pain tolerable. The ear pain is the worst. I am scheduled for surgery in October. The disc is dislocated…fixed toward the front and stays that way…jaw open or shut. It appears to be deteriorated so it will be removed and replaced with fat taken from my stomach. Can anyone tell me what to expect as far as the pain after surgery….how long it will be before I will be able to eat and how much time I should take off from work. My work enviroment is very stressfull.

  14. Alrighty, so I have TMJ, I got my firs splint to protect my teeth from grinding when I was 5, and started braces when I was 7. I was in braces and splints until I was 16, then moved into just spints. Now, I’m experiencing some discomfort again. It’s not necessarily painful, but I can’t open my mouth very much. As an opera singer, this is a MAJOR problem. I have a hard time breathing as well, my throat is getting continually tighter as I strain to open my mouth more, and I’m definitely starting to et that constant throb that used to make me want to jump off of a building. My othodontist just referred me to a surgeon. However, I really don’t want surgery. at all. Any ideas on anything I could try other than surgery and the orthodontia I’ve already had? Or should I just bite the bullet, take a year off of singing and get this darned surgery? Opinions of people who have had the surgery would be really welcome! I have a consultation to decide what type of surgery I need in a week. Probably a full joint replacement.
    BTW: I’m 20. if that affects anything.

  15. I’m 3 weeks out from replacement jaw joints on both sides.  I don’t remember 3 days in the hospital nor much after returning home for a couple of days.  One of the hardest part for me is starting eat again and dealing w/the pain afterward.  You are hungry but the soft stuff you can eat doesn’t fill you up.  Also I developed a UTI and the first round of antibiotics didn’t knock it out so I’m taking 5 more days.  Today I’m dealing with lots of gas and constant BMovements plus a stomach ache and nausiness.  I’m not sure this is related to the surgery but I’m very frustrated about not moving forward.

  16. Almost 4 weeks out and I’ve been to the ER for constant bowel movements and nausea that have dehydrated me.  Took 1 IV and was advised that the antibiotic given at hospital and then 2 rounds of antibiotics for the UTI have gotten rid of the bad bacteria AND also started getting rid of the good bacteria.  I still have a stomach pain and nausea.  Going to Gastro doctor tomorrow.  The mention of C difficile scares me.  Anyone else have these same issues?  I’m a 63 yr. old woman who has surgery but no ill effects with those surgeries.

  17. Take
    care of your mental health. Most of us who have had total replacement surgery
    have undergone years of other surgeries before we get to that point, and the
    constant pain, surgeries, medications, tests, doctor appointments, and
    everything else that this does to your life can be devastating on your mental
    health. Depression is common and there is as much to be said for seeing your
    doctor and getting some help, if needed, for these issues as for physical
    Also, be realistic in your expectations. There is no magic surgery or treatment
    that will “cure” TMJD. My surgeon was very honest with me and made
    sure that I understood that the surgery was to restore function, not eliminate
    pain. The pain is much more manageable than it was before the replacement, but
    it will always be a part of life. Work with a good pain management specialist
    and learn what works for you to allow you to live with TMJD rather than suffer
    from it, so that it does not define you or your life.

  18. Its been helpful to read others comments and tips about TMJ surgery it has helped me so much. I am going in to hospital on Monday to have Surgery for my TMJ as of yet I have been told very little from my doc what will happen or what to expect  I kind of feel in the dark as to what to expect. At my Pre Opp assessment and health check I asked questions but was told the surgeon will answer some of the questions on Monday.  The most important question I wanted to know was how long will the recover be as my work wanted to know how long I’m likely to be off work. As a few of you have undergone surgery how long did it take roughly for you to recover.. I know everyone is different but an idea of what time frame the recovery may take would be helpful.

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