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Arthroscopy of the jaw joint

Patient information A-Z

This leaflet is designed to improve your understanding of your forthcoming treatment and it contains answers to many of the common questions. If you have any other questions that the leaflet does not answer or would like a further explanation please ask your surgeon.

What is arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a form of keyhole surgery in which a small telescope is inserted into a joint. This allows the inside of the joint to be examined in great detail. It can diagnose as well as treat problems within the jaw joint.

What does the operation involve?

Arthroscopy is usually carried out under general anaesthesia (this means that you are asleep during the procedure). The arthroscope (telescope) is very slender and is introduced into the jaw joint through a small cut in front of the ear. If your surgeon also plans to treat problems within the joint, other fine instruments will be inserted through a second small cut in front of the ear.

What can I expect after surgery?

The area around your jaw joint may be swollen for a couple of days following surgery. The procedure is not a particularly painful one but you may find that you need to take simple painkillers (for example, ibuprofen) for a couple of days. Most people get discharged on the same day but occasionally may have to stay in hospital overnight.

Do I need any time off work?

This varies enormously from person to person and depends on what type of job you do. It is recommended to take one day off work after the operation. It is important to remember that you cannot drive, operate machinery or sign legal documents for 48 hours after a general anaesthetic.

What can I expect when I get home?

You will find that your jaw joint may be a little bit uncomfortable and stiff for a few days following surgery. It is usual to rest the jaw joint and eat a soft diet during this time. Occasionally, you can find that your bite may feel different for a few days due to swelling in the joint.

What are the possible problems?

Even though your surgeon looks into your jaw joint with an arthroscope, it may not be possible to treat your problem with this technique. ‘Open’ jaw joint surgery, which involves making a cut in front of the ear, is therefore occasionally still necessary. Such open surgery would be carried out on another occasion.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151