You may have heard of a friend or acquaintance who noticed symptoms of a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, like jaw pain or clicking, popping or locking of the jaw, shortly after having their wisdom teeth removed by an oral surgeon. Because of the timing of the events, those people may have blamed their TMJ symptoms on their wisdom teeth. However, it’s important to understand that impacted wisdom teeth do not cause a TMJ disorder. They are usually extracted because they cause other problems, such as discomfort and damage to nearby teeth, as they continue to attempt to erupt into a jaw that does not have enough room for them.
Furthermore, removing impacted wisdom teeth will not eliminate symptoms if a TMJ disorder is truly causing them.
Regardless of the timing of TMJ disorder symptom onset, patients should be evaluated by an oral surgeon if they suspect they are suffering from a TMJ disorder. These specialists have thorough knowledge of the composition and functioning of the jaw joint, which helps them to determine which specific element of the jaw is causing the jaw to malfunction.
For the same reason, surgeons are well-qualified to treat patients who have TMJ disorders, and invasive procedures may not even be necessary for the patient to get some relief. Depending on the cause of the problem, symptoms may resolve with non-invasive approaches such as physical therapy and massage. Stress management techniques can also help, as the symptoms are often exacerbated by stress.
In cases when a situation that must be addressed surgically—such as a congenital defect in the jaw—is at fault for your TMJ disorder, such a procedure may be recommended. However, often the surgery can be performed in an outpatient setting for maximum convenience.
Wisdom teeth do not cause TMJ disorder, nor does having them removed, even if the two events seem to occur around the same time. If you have any concerns about a pending wisdom tooth extraction or apparent TMJ disorder symptoms, call our office to get the information you need or learn about treatment options.