What is a temporomandibular joint injection?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that allows you to open and close your mouth. Problems with this joint can lead to severe pain with opening and closing the mouth as well as difficulty eating and chewing. TMJ injections involve the injection of a numbing medication and a steroid to reduce pain and inflammation in the joint and allow greater range of motion. It can be performed in your provider’s office as an outpatient procedure. An older procedure used to treat lock jaw is called arthrocentesis; this procedure required sedation in an operating room. A temporomandibular joint injection with local anesthetic and steroids is a much cheaper option.

Am I a candidate for TMJ injection?

You are a candidate for TMJ injection if you suffer from TMJ syndrome caused by “disc displacement without reduction,” more commonly known as “lock jaw.” If your TMJ pain and difficulty opening your mouth is caused by a tumor, fracture, or muscle problems, you may not be a candidate for this procedure. Additionally, if you have problems with your blood clotting or allergies to anesthetics or steroids, you are probably not a candidate for this procedure. Be sure to tell your provider if you take blood thinner medicines such as heparin, warfarin, or enoxaparin.

How long will the TMJ injection procedure take?

Temporomandibular joint injections do not take long. The skin around your ear is cleansed and a small needle is inserted in to your temporomandibular joint a mixture of lidocaine, which is the same medicine your dentist uses to numb your gum and tooth prior to filling a cavity, and a steroid is injected. Following the injection, you will hold an ice pack to your face at the injection site. Five minutes later, the doctor will check your facial movements for signs of an adverse effect called palsy. A palsy is where a nerve in your face is paralyzed; this is associated with numbness and drooping. However, it should return to normal in a few hours. The doctor will also manually open your mouth to measure how far you can open your jaw and assess your pain. You will then be allowed to leave the office.

How long will it take to recover from TMJ injection?

It may take time to see the full results of a temporomandibular joint injection and your pain may get worse initially. You can return to full activity as tolerated. Your provider will instruct you on exercises and stretches to do to improve your temporomandibular joint function. At one week, you should return to the office to have more measurements taken of your pain level and how far you can open your mouth.

Reference:

Samiee, A., Sabzerou, D., Edalatpajouh, F., Clark, G.T., Ram, S. (2011). Temporomandibular joint injection with corticosteroid and local anesthetic for limited mouth opening. Journal of Oral Science, 53(3). Retrieved from https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/josnusd/53/3/53_3_321/_pdf