Breakdown of the bony surface of the TMJ condyle has been termed osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease. All three terms refer to the same underlying changes.

Degenerative joint disease in the TMJ, as in other joints, is the consequence of chronic abnormal mechanical loading of the joint. It may also be associated with long-term advanced internal derangement in the TMJ.

When degeneration does occur, it can lead to pain and joint dysfunction. This is generally managed by a medical professional, as it is when it occurs in other joints in the body (e.g., hip, knee, etc.). However, if medical treatment is not effective, surgical management may be needed (e.g., arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, open joint arthroplasty, or total joint replacement) to eliminate the pain and improve function.

We are grateful to Dr. Daniel Laskin, Adjunct Clinical Professor and Chairman Emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, for his many years as our clinical advisor and for writing the content in this section.