Condylar Resorption

Condylar resorption is a rare condition that causes bones in your jaw joint to break down. People with this condition may notice their lower jaw looks like it’s shrinking or retracting. Surgery on your jaw joint can correct the problem and realign your jaw.


What is condylar resorption?

Condylar resorption is the breakdown and loss of bone in part of your temporomandibular joints (TMJs), or jaw joints. This bone loss affects the mandibular condyles, which are the rounded ends of your lower jaw that connect to your TMJ on both sides of your skull. Condylar resorption causes your mandible, or lower jawbone, to shrink and retract (pull back). This change in your jaw may happen quickly (within months) or it can take years to develop.


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Who might get condylar resorption?

This condition is nine times more common in women than men. Condylar resorption usually affects women between 10 and 20 years of age.

How does condylar resorption affect my body?

It can cause changes to your facial appearance and structure. You may notice that your lower jaw looks smaller or your chin looks less defined. Condylar resorption can also cause temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). This inflammation in your muscles and ligaments around your jaw joints can lead to headaches, jaw pain and trouble moving your jaw.


Symptoms and Causes

What causes condylar resorption?

Possible causes of condylar resorption include:

Some people develop condylar resorption without an obvious cause, known as idiopathic condylar resorption. Idiopathic condylar resorption is rare.

What are the symptoms of condylar resorption?

People who have condylar resorption usually notice a change in their facial structure and appearance. The most noticeable difference is a shrinking or retracting of their jaw and chin. People with this condition may also have:


Diagnosis and Tests

How is condylar resorption diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms and perform a physical examination. They’ll also ask about your:

  • Health history, including any health conditions you currently have.
  • Family history of autoimmune diseases or other conditions related to condylar resorption.
  • Lifestyle, including sports or activities you participate in.
  • Medications you take.

What tests are used to diagnose condylar resorption?

Your healthcare provider may perform imaging tests to view your jaw, teeth and facial structures. These tests provide detailed pictures of your jaw and can reveal whether your mandibular condyles are breaking down. Tests that can be useful in diagnosing this condition include:

Management and Treatment

Management may include consultations from several healthcare providers, including orthodontists, rheumatologists or primary care providers (PCPs.) You may be started on long-term medications to slow down the resorption process prior to any surgical intervention if indicated.

How is condylar resorption treated?

Your treatment plan depends on your facial structure, age and medical history. Treatment options for condylar resorption may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, which can help slow the condition’s progress.
  • Bite splints or night guards to protect your teeth from damage due to bruxism (grinding and clenching).
  • Condylectomy, which is surgery to remove your mandibular condyles. After removing them, your surgeon reshapes and repairs your jaw to restore proper function and improve appearance.
  • Orthodontics, including braces and retainers, which can correct overbite or teeth alignment problems.
  • Orthognathic surgery, which repositions your upper and lower jaws. This may be done in combination with TMJ reconstruction.

How long does it take to recover from condylar resorption surgery?

Recovering from condylectomy and orthognathic surgery takes six to 12 weeks. For the first two to four weeks, you’ll eat a liquid diet to allow your jaw to rest. As your jaw heals, you’ll gradually start eating soft foods.


How can I reduce my risk of getting condylar resorption?

There isn’t a known way to prevent condylar resorption. See your healthcare and dental providers regularly to discuss any symptoms or problems you notice with your jaw or teeth.

Outlook / Prognosis

Are there long-term effects from condylar resorption?

Teeth or jaw misalignment from condylar resorption can lead to:

  • Chipped or cracked teeth.
  • Headaches and jaw pain.
  • Neck and back pain.
  • Toothaches.
  • Trouble opening your mouth or chewing.
  • Alteration in facial appearance.
  • TMJ pain.

If you have symptoms of condylar resorption, see your healthcare provider. Treating condylar resorption early can help minimize or prevent these problems.

When can I go back to work or school after condylar resorption surgery?

Everyone’s recovery from condylar resorption surgery is different. Most people go back to work after two weeks. If you have a physically demanding job, you may need more time to recover. Ask your healthcare provider how long you should take off from work or school.

What is the outlook?

Condylar resorption isn’t life-threatening, and people can live with this condition without treatment. But changes to your facial appearance, jaw and teeth won’t go away without treatment.

Many people have positive outcomes after condylar resorption surgery. Proper jaw alignment helps restore your natural facial structure and prevent dental or jaw problems. If you choose not to have surgery, or your case is mild, talk to your healthcare provider about ways you can minimize pain or other symptoms.

Living With

How do I take care of myself?

If you have pain or jaw problems from condylar resorption, these at-home measures may help relieve symptoms:

  • Apply moist heat or cold packs to your jaw area. Use cold packs for no more than 10 minutes at a time, and stop if the pack feels too cold. Use moist heat packs for up to 15 minutes, four times a day.
  • Give your jaw rest. When jaw pain is bothering you, eat soft foods. Use slow-cooking methods to soften meats, and eat cooked fruits or vegetables instead of raw. Avoid chewy meats and breads, and hard or crunchy foods. Don’t chew gum.
  • Try pain relievers. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®) can help with headaches and jaw pain. If you have any health conditions, ask your healthcare provider before taking them. Follow the dosing instructions on the bottle and don’t take these medications for longer than two weeks without your healthcare provider’s approval.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Headaches that become more frequent or severe or that interfere with daily activities.
  • Increasing pain in your jaw, neck or back.
  • Toothaches or cracked teeth.
  • Trouble eating or drinking because of jaw or facial pain.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Condylar resorption can cause pain, jaw problems and changes to your facial appearance, but you don’t have to live with these issues. Many treatments — from orthodontics to surgery — can help you find relief. See your healthcare provider if condylar resorption is causing symptoms that interfere with your life. Together, you can discuss the best treatment options based on your unique needs and preferences.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/19/2022.

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