Can I get TMJ problems after having molars removed?

It can be common in dentistry to have third molar removal. There are many side effects for having this extraction procedure and many can be serious that need additional dental and/or medical assistance.

A more benign condition, but debilitating and painful, can be the possibility to developing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. TMJ is a subset of the the large interface of orofacial pain, now defined as temporomandibular disorder (TMD). TMD is defined as a group of disorders involving the masticatory muscles, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and the associated structures.

Can I get TMJ problems after having molars removed?

The research on this topic is variable as it can be difficult to study this type of correlation but I want to bring attention to a 2020 Systematic Review by Damesceno et al. that concluded third molar extraction can be associated with the development of TMD signs and symptoms.

The authors examined this exact question and concluded the following bullet points associated with risk factor of developing TMD and third molar extraction:

  • third molar location

  • the degree of impaction and surgical difficulty

  • age (may be higher for people under 21 years of age or older than 40)

  • gender (more common in females —-sorry ladies!)

Previous studies have shown a higher incidence of more severe symptoms if a patient has:

  • four third molars extracted

  • ones who underwent extractions in several sessions

  • ones who had extraction under local anesthesia

Can you prevent the occurrence of TMJ problems when molars are removed?

I wish I could answer this question with a high degree of certainty. I think that is true for any condition in the medical field!

What I normally do for my patients is make an analogy. For us “middle-agers” —- remember that we normally warm up before we go and play a sport? We did that to bring blood flow to muscles and decrease stiffness. This may not have made the possibility of getting hurt completely zero, but it definitely helped reduce the risk of injury.

Think of this with your jaw —- if you plan to have a procedure of having your jaw opened for a long period of time and you have risk factors of developing TMJ (such as female gender, small mouth, tightness in jaw, etc) — then you may have higher risk of developing TMJ issues after a procedure!

Closing points

Generally speaking, a greater risk factor for TMJ problems is due to a more difficult procedure that requires the jaw to be opened for a longer period of time!

Also, good news is that the pain and difficulty with the TMJ can improve on its own in many times! However, in other instances, there are people out there who can help you!

TMD can be treated by your dentist or sometimes referral to a dentist specializing in dentistry is common. However, a more conservative and usually lower price option is a referral to a Physical Therapist / Physio. This usually involves manual therapy to the neck / jaw and exercises to help you recover.

I even offer a program to show you how to improve the flexibility and mobility of your jaw prior to going to the dentist —- either for a general 6 month follow-up or even with a more time-consuming molar extraction.

Feel free to contact me to see if I can help you.