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Dental and Oral Health Center

Jaw misalignment due to bruxism

08/03/2006

Question:

I suffer from bruxism (grinding of teeth at night) and recently woke up one morning with pain in my jaw and without being able to close my jaw on the left side. I thought it would eventually correct itself, as I sometimes get pain in my jaw in the morning. However, it appears that my jaw is permanently misaligned or dislocated. I now wear a protective mouth piece at night, but my jaw still won`t close completely on the left side. How can this be fixed?

Answer:

This typically occurs as a result of fluid accumulation inside the joint capsule.  It is not all that different from a similar process in the knee or the shoulder.  If left alone and treated with non-steroidal antiinflammatory medication and dry heat to the area, it typically resolves in about 2 to 6 weeks.  It takes that long because the blood supply inside joints is very poor and it takes a long time for the extra fluid to be resorbed.  If the problem persists, then the first line of action is to perform an arthocentesis (also referred to as "tapping the joint") to remove the fluid and inflammatory mediators and inject steroid medication directly into the joint space.

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Response by:

Guillermo  E Chacon, DDS Guillermo E Chacon, DDS
Formerly:
Associate Professor of Dentistry
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University