Total Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Replacement

TMJ illustration of bite correction surgeryJaw joint (temporomandibular joint or TMJ) disease is estimated to affect 30 million Americans, with approximately 1 million new patients diagnosed each year. Although many of these patients can be managed with nonsurgical therapies, some patients require surgical intervention. The TMJ is a unique joint in that it does not function independently but works in tandem with the joint on the other side. Therefore, disease affecting 1 joint can either directly or indirectly affect the functioning and health of the contralateral joint. When surgical intervention of the TMJ is required, the joint can be reconstructed with patient’s own bone. However, certain TMJ conditions and pathology require reconstruction with a total joint prosthesis.

Some of the conditions that may require considerations for total TMJ replacement include:

  • If a patient had more than 2 previous TMJ surgeries.panoramic X-ray of upper and lower jaws
  • Severe TMJ degenerative arthritis.
  • Facial appearance or bite changes due to resorption of the temporomandibular joint.
  • Previous failed TMJ total joint replacement surgery
  • TMJ pathology; connective tissue or autoimmune disease (i.e., rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, scleroderma, Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis); fibrous or bony ankylosis; absence of TMJ structures due to pathology, trauma, or congenital deformity; and tumors involving the condyle and mandibular ramus area.

Depending upon age, the amount of damage to the temporomandibular joint, and previous surgeries, replacement of all or part of the temporomandibular joint structure may be necessary.

What Are Possible Complications?

Complications may occur following placement of these implants and may require further treatment. The occurrence of a complication may be related to or influenced by previous surgical history or prior medical conditions. For the right candidate and if performed by an experienced surgeon, total joint replacement is a successful procedure. Keep in mind that total joint replacement surgery is an invasive surgical procedure and it is reserved for advanced cases where all other options have been explored and failed. Some of the major complications with open TMJ surgery may include nerve damage, erosion of the prosthesis, scar tissue formation, persistent pain and the need to replace the prosthesis.

What Can I Expect Following Surgery?

Total joint replacement surgery require a short hospital stay of 2-3 days depending on the type of procedure performed. In the immediate post-operative period, Dr. Bolourian will provide you with the appropriate medications and care required for your recovery. In order to establish the proper relationship between the upper and lower jaws, your teeth are wired together during surgery. Depending on your specific circumstances, these fixation wires may temporarily be left in place following surgery.

Postsurgical physical therapy is very important to achieving and maintaining optimum joint function. Dr. Bolourian may recommend a jaw-exercising device for you. You must follow his instructions with regard to the use of that device in order to attain the maximum benefit from your surgery.

Continuous jaw motion, function and physical therapy are very important post surgical instructions.

What Are The Alternatives To This Type Of Reconstruction?

Alternatives to this type of reconstruction include grafts of bone, soft tissue, or cartilage. The suitability of alternative treatments will depend on the condition of the bones, cartilage, disc, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels in and around your TMJs. Rest assured that Dr. Bolourian will discuss all the options with you and will help you decide on the best treatment approach.