Arthrocentesis TMJ & its Use in Relieving Joint Pain

The temporomandibular joint is one of the essential parts of our mouth. It is the joint that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull.

It is because of the temporomandibular joint that we can freely move our jaw up and down or side to side.


Some of the activities that temporomandibular joint allows are talking, chewing, and yawning.

Temporomandibular joint disorders have become a common dental issue nowadays. These disorders cause problems in controlling the movement of the jaw and muscles.

One of several temporomandibular joint disorders is displaced disc. Displaced TMJ disc causes locking of the jaw.

The locked jaw is a harrowing and uncomfortable situation where the patient is unable to close the jaw back in position comfortably.

Symptoms of this condition may include pain, stiffness around the joint, clicking and popping of the joint during mouth closing.

Mouth guards and jaw exercises are usually adviced to treat the disorder symptomatically.

However, a permanent treatment for the displaced disc is arthrocentesis.

TMJ arthrocentesis is a minor surgical process that involves the use of hypodermic needles to reposition the drive in place without causing any damage to the surrounding tissues. (1)

Recovery from arthrocentesis usually takes around a week. However, it may vary from person to person.

Let’s continue to read further and find out more about this unique dental procedure.

What is a temporomandibular joint?

The temporomandibular joint is a facial joint that connects the lower jaw with the base of the skull in front of the ear.

Between the two bony connections, there is a cartilaginous disc attached on either end to the respective bones.

Space around the cartilaginous disc is occupied by a series of temporomandibular muscles and ligaments.

Usually, the temporomandibular joint capsule is filled with synovial fluid that lubricates the soft disc and surrounding tissues.

These connections altogether help to hold the lower jaw in place and allow free movement while talking, chewing, and yawning. (2)

What is the purpose of TMJ arthrocentesis?

TMJ arthrocentesis is a minimally invasive minor surgical procedure which is performed to correct displaced disc or relieve the stiffness of the jaw due to fluid build up. (3)

To understand more about this procedure, let’s look at disc displacement first.

Disc displacement is a situation where the TMJ disc fails to return into its normal position while the mouth is open.

Displaced or damaged disc causes a buildup of the synovial fluid in the joint capsule.

Often this problem is accompanied by sharp pain, stiffness, clicking or popping of the joint while closing.

Often the cause of TMJ disc displacement can be –

  • A sharp blow to the area
  • Inflammation from arthritis
  • Overextension of the jaw

Arthrocentesis is a conservative surgical attempt that uses hypodermic needles to correct the position of the disc and relieve the fluid buildup without damaging the surrounding muscles and tissues. (4)

How is TMJ arthrocentesis performed?

Generally, TMJ arthrocentesis is performed in the office under local anesthesia.

Some surgeons prefer to perform this procedure under general anesthesia.

However, the incision is small to be covered with a simple gauze dressing and often a local anesthetic can suffice.

Arthrocentesis uses two hypodermic needles that are placed into the joint to flush the joint capsule with a saline solution.

This step helps to remove the tissue breakdown products and reduce inflammation of the joint. (5)

Any scar tissues or adhesions are also removed by careful manipulation of the needles in the jaw. The disc is carefully repositioned back.

Arthrocentesis is a unique dental procedure which helps the patient to have a pain free TMJ.

It is always good to discuss the details of such methods with your dentist before the initiation of the treatment.

How long does it take to recover?

After the procedure has been completed, the area around the joint stays numb for at least an hour or two.

Swelling of the affected side of the face may be experienced commonly for 1-2 days. Pain may persist for a few days.

However, the surgeon will prescribe pain medications for the patient’s comfort. Some of the key factors to follow during recovery are –

  • Continue regular jaw exercises
  • Switch to a soft diet
  • Brushing may be painful for a few days. Make sure to use a mouth wash and rinse your mouth thoroughly every day.
  • Use cold compressions to subside the swelling of the face

Recovery from TMJ arthrocentesis usually takes around three to four days. However, if you can take an off for a week, it will help to heal the area thoroughly.

Take away message

The temporomandibular joint is a type of facial joint which is located in front of the ears.

This joint connects the lower jaw with the base of the skull, particularly to the temporal bone.

Temporomandibular joint allows free movement of the lower jaw while opening or closing the mouth and moving it side to side.

Main functions of a temporomandibular joint include assistance in talking, chewing, and yawning.

Like any other oral tissue, TMJ is also prone to inevitable damage or disorder. One of the common TMJ disorders is disc displacement.

Displacement of the cartilaginous disc can occur due to traumatic injury, overextension of the jaw, or inflammation from arthritis.


Often this condition leads to fluid build up in the joint capsule, which causes pain, stiffness, and popping of the joint.

TMJ arthrocentesis is a minor surgical procedure which is performed under local anesthesia.

This procedure uses two hypodermic needles to remove the excess fluid, tissue breakdown products, and soft tissue adhesions from the TMJ capsule.

Additionally, arthrocentesis also helps to reposition the disc back into the joint to allow painless, smooth movement of the jaw.

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms mentioned above, talk to your dentist, and look for conservative dental options such as TMJ arthrocentesis.


You May Also Like

Jaw Pain Treatment – Conventional Treatment & Home Remedies

Some of the medical treatments for jaw pain management include dental corrections, therapeutic and surgical intervention followed by physiotherapy of the jaw.

How can Whiplash Cause Jaw Pain? – Let’s Find Out

Physiotherapists have established that the correlation between a whiplash and TMJ pain is mainly due to myofascial problems related to cervical injury during an accident.

What is Trismus? Signs, Causes and Treatment Options

Trismus or 'lockjaw' is a painful condition in which the chewing muscles of the jaw become contracted and sometimes inflamed, preventing the mouth from fully opening.

Tmj and Vertigo – Are They Related? Let’s Find Out

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) and vertigo are related due to the proximity of temporomandibular joint to the ear. Vertigo can cause balance issues, which can lead to falls or serious injuries.

What is Neuromuscular Dentistry? – Let’s Find Out

Neuromuscular dentistry is a therapy that focuses on realigning the jaw and correcting temporomandibular disorders in the patient.

More Articles Like This