Arthrocentesis of the temporomandibular joint is an effective treatment for some disorders, and is usually done under local anaesthesia. We know of few studies that have compared the ease of arthrocentesis and its outcomes under local or general anaesthesia, so we studied 32 patients (n = 16 in each group). Postoperative oedema and pain, maximum mouth opening, duration of arthrocentesis, and ease of operation were assessed to compare the relative effectiveness of the two types of anaesthetic. Scores for duration of arthrocentesis (p = 0.003) and ease of procedure (0.004) differed significantly, while the other results were similar in the two groups. We noticed some superior outcomes when the procedure was done under general anaesthesia, but because of its limitations, selection of patients becomes more important. (C) 2016 The British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.