Arthroscopy of the TMJ

What is a TMJ arthroscopy?

An arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) allows our doctors to see inside your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) using a camera inserted through a small cut on your skin. 

After this, our doctors may be able to diagnose problems such as torn cartilage or damage to the surface of the joint itself. They may be able to treat some problems using surgical instruments or by washing out the joint (arthrocentesis), without making a more significant cut. 

What are the benefits of surgery?

The goal is to locate what is going on in the TM-Joint. Many of the problems can be treated at the same time as the arthroscopy.


Are There Alternatives to Surgery?

Problems inside a joint can often be diagnosed using tests such as CT scans and MRI scans. Non-surgical treatment such as rest, taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, and wearing a TMJ splint can sometimes help. 

If the problem is with the chewing muscles around the temporomandibular joint, muscle-relaxing medication or injections of Botox can reduce joint stiffness but do not treat the underlying cause. 

A steroid injection into the joint can sometimes reduce pain for several months but may cause side effects if repeated too frequently.

What Does this Operation Involve?

The operation is performed under IV anesthesia, it usually takes about 20 minutes per joint. The entire procedure can take up to 2 hours if our doctors need to perform any surgery within the joint. 

A camera is inserted through a small cut in front of the ear to examine the inside of the temporomandibular joint for any damage to cartilage, joint surfaces or ligaments. One or two needles may be inserted through the incision and used to wash out any loose material caused by wear on the joint surfaces.  Another incision may be performed to insert surgical instruments to treat scarring, improve the joint surfaces or use a stitch to change the position of the cartilage disc.  

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

General Complications of any surgery

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • bruising and swelling
  • infection of the surgical site
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medications
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung

Specific complications of this surgery

  • not being able to open your mouth fully (trismus) and jaw stiffness
  • tenderness and pain in the joint
  • numbness of the temple and ear
  • weak forehead movement

How soon will I recover?

The swelling and discomfort are usually at their worst for the first few hours. You should be able to go home the same day. To reduce the risk of bleeding, swelling, and bruising. Do not perform strenuous exercise, have a hot bath, or bend down for 2 weeks. 

Regular exercise should help you return to normal activities, as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask our team here for advice. 

You must keep the joint moving. Our doctors will give you stretching exercises to help improve your mouth opening. You should be able to return to work after a few days, depending on your type of work. 


A TMJ arthroscopy is a procedure used to diagnose and treat problems associated with the TMJ. Such as locking, pain, and restricted opening of your jaw. This procedure helps reduce the surgical incision needed for further treatment.