Is it Worth it to Have TMJ Treatment?
When you’re considering any dental procedure, you need to know the risks, and weigh them against the benefits. The choice of whether or not to have a dental procedure is very personal, and every person will make their choice differently. Here, we’ll discuss the major risks and benefits of having a few of the available treatments for TMJ. If you want to learn more about what the procedure and the recovery are like for each of these treatments, please visit TMJ Treatment: Procedures and Recovery.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential dental procedure with your own dentist.
Any procedure has risks, and they should be carefully weighed before you decide to proceed. The risks of your TMJ treatment will depend on the type of treatment you choose.
At-home treatment with cold therapy, stretching exercises, and pain relievers as needed, carries little risk; the main risk comes from the pain relievers, which may have side effects. Ibuprofen can cause a variety of problems, including bleeding, stomach ulcers, and kidney damage, particularly if taken for too long or at too high a dose. Pain medications containing opiates, such as Percocet or Vicodin, which may be prescribed by your dentist, can cause problems such as nausea, drowsiness, and itching, and can be addictive. To minimize these risks, take the lowest possible dose of pain reliever and only take it when you need it. Other than the risk from the pain medications, the only risk is the possibility that the treatment won’t make your TMJ any better.
Physical therapy and stabilization splints have few side effects or risks, beyond the cost and the possibility that they won’t be effective in treating TMJ.
Surgery on the joint itself can potentially have very damaging side effects. There are the usual risks of surgery, including infection (which may require antibiotics and may damage tissue) and excessive bleeding (which may require a blood transfusion). Surrounding tissues, including nerves, blood vessels, and muscles, could be damaged during surgery, and may never recover. General anesthesia sometimes causes adverse reactions, and maybe even death. Additionally, when the TMJ is surgically altered or the jaw is repositioned, there is the potential for the joint to be further damaged, rather than helped, by these actions. That means that surgery, with all its risks, could also make the problem worse rather than better.
For those who have TMJ, it can be very uncomfortable. The jaw may feel stiff, and there may be pain when chewing or even when speaking. Because there’s really no way to avoid these activities for any significant length of time, TMJ sufferers often feel that they have no choice but to endure the pain. They often become willing to try almost anything. Though it’s very important to use judgment and caution in choosing treatments, a successful treatment for TMJ could make eating and speaking comfortable again, allowing you to take pleasure in mealtimes and in company. These pleasures are central to human life, and getting them back can be of enormous benefit.
The cost of TMJ treatment can be anywhere from very little (for home treatment) to several hundred to a few thousand (for physical therapy or splints) to several thousand (for surgery). In certain cases, part of the cost may be covered by insurance. The cost also varies between dentists and in different regions, so check with the dentist you’re considering to find out the exact price. For more detail, please visit our TMJ Treatment Cost page.