In recent months I have met way too many new patients who were scheduled to have jaw joint or other more extreme types of surgery to handle their pain. This is about as smart as jumping into the path of a moving bus- in other words, it’s NOT smart! I am not sure why the increase in recommended surgeries is happening, but I think it’s important to put a stop to it now. The reason for this is that doing any kind of surgery will leave scar tissue and adhesions that will restrict the motion of the body. In my own practice, doing TMJ surgery is always done as a last resort after a course of careful and thorough appliance therapy. In addition, it is very critical that if the cranial bones are uneven, then there must be a concerted effort to level them out in order that if the surgery is done, it will be so much more successful.
The idea behind waiting on TMJ surgery is actually twofold: 1) The first phase oftentimes involves taking the pressure off the jaw joint discs so that inflammation will reduce, and many times those discs will actually go back into proper place so we can actually avoid the surgery and 2) Leveling the cranial bones, lining up the cervical, lumbar, and thoracic spine are all critical to good health and longevity when it comes to doing the actual surgery.
In other cases that I am currently working on, patients were told they would need one side of their jaw ‘cut and shortened’ to make it even with the other side. Well, that’s another ridiculous approach to a fairly simple problem. You see folks, in most of these cases the jaws are just twisted to the side because the discs are pushing the jaw bones out of the sockets and all we need to do is work on relieving the pressure on those discs and the jaw will actually realign correctly.
The only time that I have ever seen the need to ‘go in’ right away and do surgery is if the patient simply waited way too long to be treated and their jaws are locked shut. This is always a difficult situation. The patient tells me that it all started ‘a long time ago’ when the jaw just started to tighten up, things started to close down, they could no longer eat a hotdog or sandwich and eventually the jaw just locked. Sometimes I can use our low level laser to loosen up the muscles to take an impression and make our appliance but sometimes it’s too little, too late, and surgery is the only way to fix it.
So folks, if you are having head/neck pain, jaw popping/clicking, or even a movement disorder, get it checked out carefully before you become a surgical case!