Has anyone experience with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) surgery?

Not seeking medical advice, just medical anecdotes. I’ve been diagnosed a long time ago, and know that the actual path I take is a decision I can only make in consultation with appropriate medical personnel.

About thirty years or so ago, when my brother and I were wee lads, we were wrasslin’ as young brothers do. I still have vivid memories of one particular day. I had this thing I’d do if I (the little brother) could get the advantage. I’d put my hands on his face and push down hard … “Mach 1” I’d cry! and simulate G-forces pushing his face back. If I was lucky enough to keep him pinned: “Oh my god, he’s hit Mach 10!” and so on, upping in a cartoonish fashion the speeds he was travelling at and would try and similarly distort his face, ending up in some rather physics-bending and face-contorting speeds. Brothers. Hilarity.

Then one day RhythmBrother (who generally had his own creative torments) thought to do the same thing. Except, well, he didn’t quite get it right. Instead of pushing the face back in mock distortions, he put his entire weight on my jaw and shoved. Hard.
I couldn’t close my mouth for about twenty minutes.
It’s never been the same. The years of popping and discomfort wore on (as bone wore down), and it went from a novelty to an ache to a soreness to the point now where I can barely chew turkey. About ten years ago I saw an X-ray of the area (was having non-related work done) and the ball part of the joint was almost completely worn down (fortunately, this is on one side only). Again, that was ten years ago, and it had already moved into the pain category. Lately (the past couple years or so) the pace of the pain increase has picked up.

I’m not sure how much longer I can put off doing something about it. From what I’ve read and learned, mouth guards and exercises aren’t applicable given this level of degeneration. Note again this is in IMHO for anecdote collecting, not to ask which treatment is best. Certainly share if you’ve had any luck with anything, as I’m sure that even if I don’t, someone else reading the thread will get something useful out of it.

I’m not sure when I’ll get around to making an appointment. But I’m curious as to what I’ll be in for — pain, price, post-op, long-term benefits… whatever you care to share.

Oh, and since TMJ is too short to search on: temporomandibular joint



I have nothing of substance to add but I’ll bump it because it’s important.

We’ve had several threads about this in the past but I don’t recall any that directly addressed the question of surgery.

My experience: My jaw has clicked all my life. A few years ago I started to have agonizing migraines and backaches so I went to an oral surgeon (the only sort of medical professional, apparently, who’s trained to deal with TMJ). He said that surgery was a very last resort and I should try to manage it on my own; he basically offered me the ‘cure’ of a lifetime of painkillers.

I preferred a different route, did some research, and am able to manage the problem quite well now with magnesium supplements and yoga. I no longer grind my teeth and my face only hurts when I forget to take my cal-mag. Altho I do have some permanent damage (my jaw opens kind of unevenly because of damage to the right side joint) it sounds like your problem is a lot worse than mine, so YMMV.

Please PM me if you want more information about my situation. It’s made such a difference to my quality of life that I’ve become kind of evangelical on the subject.

I cannot speak from a position of TMJ or from a degenerative-bone situation, but I had jaw surgery back when I was 17 or so. I had a situation similar to what I believe Michael Phelps has…a very narrow upper jaw and a massive underbite.

After the requisite palate spreader and braces the teeth were lining up…except for the front-to-back part…due to the underbite. The solution was to remove, surgically, 11mm of bone on each side of my jaw, wire it up and wait 6 weeks.

The oral surgeon had made a template of where my upper and lower teeth should be when aligned and fashioned a mouth-guard of sorts. After surgery I had a full size mouth guard between my teeth and my braces wired shut.

  • I could eat nothing but liquids, obviously, and had to draw them up a straw placed outside my teeth up the side of my mouth. I lost 12lbs in the first week. Two words…Instant Breakfast.
  • I could not talk. Well, I could talk, but I couldn’t be understood. My sister, the special ed teacher could understand me, but no one else could. An unfortunate side effect of the large mouth guard thing. I have notebooks filled with half conversations.
  • I could not breathe hard. Again, the mouth guard. Nose only. I carried a set of wire cutters with me in the event I vomited or could not breathe enough through my nose…and finally…
  • I can’t feel my lower lip or my chin. Basically the goatee area. A large nerve runs through the bottom jaw bone and this was severed during the surgery. At first I could not feel half of my tongue and most of my face (up to my eyes). The numbness receded, I got my tongue back, but the lip and chin are still out.

No regrets. I dont’ know if the nerve thing will play a part inthe kind of surgery you are looking at…plus there must have been a lot of advancements in the 25 years since I was worked on.

My recommendation…go for it. Pain, chronic pain, is no fun. Eating can be a true pleasure and should be enjoyed.

I had the surgery when I was 17. Bad orthodontia by a quack doctor had caused recession of my chin, TMJs, and the roots of my teeth. I had excessive clicking prior to the surgery, severe jaw pain, and only two of my teeth actually touched when I bit down.

Like TheBori, I lost feeling in my chin for several years. I actually have most of the feeling back now, and it never really bothered me when I didn’t. I was wired shut for three months and then rubber banded shut for three months. I, too, lost a ton of weight, and I never want to see another Ensure for the rest of my life.

Oh, and my head . . . It was HUGE! I’d post a picture but it was too terrifying to look in a mirror for weeks. I had a greenish-purplish bruise that started at my eyes and ended mid-chest for several weeks, but my head was somewhat misshapen for months.

I now have ten screws holding my chin on and three keeping my jaw in my face. (One side didn’t have enough bone left for the second screw.) My chin was sliced and slid out to make it look like it did before the recession. It was purely cosmetic. The primary problem now is that some of my chin screws are working their way forward. You can’t see them, but I can feel them when I touch my chin. It may be an issue in the future that will need to be addressed, but right now it’s not a problem. Just weird. And I have some random spur-like bone growth inside my mouth caused from all the trauma, but that doesn’t cause any problems either.

I’m still glad I had it done. It was less painful than childbirth. Recovery was long, but not very restrictive (other than not eating.) I still can’t do gummy bears, but I can chew gum for a little while without pain, and I don’t miss getting my mouth stuck open after a good yawn.