Island Oral & Facial Surgery

What is temporomandibular joint arthroplasty?

Person with Toothache

Definition of TMJ Arthroplasty:

Temporomandibular joint arthroplasty is a surgical procedure that is performed in a hospital operating room by a specially trained oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

It is more commonly known as total jaw joint replacement. It involves removal of the diseased joint and replacement with a prosthetic joint.

What symptoms indicate the need for temporomandibular joint disorder total joint arthroplasty (TMD TJA)?

Patients who undergo this special surgery typically have had the following complaints.

  • Chronic, unresolved temporomandibular joint dysfunction or syndrome (TMD or TMJS)
  • Have been experiencing severe jaw pain for a long time or a long history of unresolved jaw pain
  • Severely misshapen and/or misaligned jaw
  • Have a locking jaw
  • Can’t open mouth
  • Can’t eat or talk because of jaw problems
  • Have been treated by a dentist or doctor for TMJ disease, but haven’t improved

What conditions/factors contribute to the need for TMD TJA?

These patients may also have a long history of contributing conditions such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • A series of other failed treatments including surgeries
  • Prior facial and jaw trauma such as from a bike or vehicle accident or physical altercation that hasn’t resolved with prior surgeries

Does insurance pay for temporomandibular joint arthroplasty?

Within the United States many insurance plans cover this surgery because it is typically deemed as “medically necessary”. Because the procedure is a surgery that only is performed in a hospital operating room and requires anesthesia, it is expensive when insurance doesn’t help cover the cost. However, because it has a high probability of improving quality of life, there are patients who opt to pay out of pocket to get the procedure when insurance won’t pay or a queue for care is too long in their medical system.

If I or someone I know may need this surgery, what do I do?

Start by phoning our office at 360-240-9400.

What can I expect when I call?

We will ask you questions over the phone and advise you regarding how to contact doctors and dentists to have them get us access to the dental and health records.

If we find that the records indicate further evaluation, we may order an MRI or CT scan that can be performed near your home.

Once we have all these records, we will schedule a virtual consultation.

If it appears that you would have a strong chance at having a better quality of life, we then will schedule surgery and would advise you on any arrangements necessary.

Follow up care timeline for people who don’t live locally:

For people coming from some distance, we advise that you plan to come into town the day before the scheduled surgery date so that we can meet and go over any questions. The surgery will be scheduled for early the next day and should be done by evening. You will likely stay in the hospital overnight and will be required to stay in the area for a week after surgery so that we can see you in person for after surgery visits. Subsequently you can expect virtual post-operative appointments to occur over the next several months.

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