Article: Volume 14 Number 2 Page 82 - April 2021

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  Orth Update 2021; 14: 82-88

Orthodontics:  Idiopathic condylar resorption in orthodontics

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Abstract: Condylar resorption (CR) can be categorized into functional and dysfunctional remodelling of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The literature describes dysfunctional remodelling of the TMJ as idiopathic condylar resorption (ICR). Idiopathic condylar resorption (ICR) is a well-documented but poorly understood pathological entity that can occur spontaneously or post-orthognathic surgery. It predominantly affects young women, with other risk factors including Class 2 malocclusion with steep mandibular plane angles. It is distinguished by a decreased condylar head volume and ramus height, progressive mandibular retrusion and an anterior open bite. Its aetiology can be categorized into surgical and non-surgical risk factors. These include hormones, systemic disease, trauma, mechanical load and surgical risk factors, such as magnitude and direction of mandibular movement, type of surgical fixation and length of post-operative maxilla-mandibular fixation. ICR is a diagnosis of exclusion, and identified by a combination of clinical, radiographic and haematological findings. Multiple treatment options have been described in the literature, including medical management, orthodontics, orthognathic surgery, TMJ surgery, TMJ and orthognathic surgery combined, and total joint prosthesis reconstruction. Further research is required to better understand the aetiology of ICR and more long-term, controlled, multicentre clinical studies are needed to evaluate the outcomes of surgical and non-surgical management of CR patients.

Clinical relevance: Idiopathic condylar resorption has many presentations and potential causes that can greatly impact the decisions and outcomes for orthodontic/orthognathic treatment.

Author notes: Salwa El-Habbash, BA, B Dent Sc, MFD RCSI, Orthodontic Registrar, Birmingham Dental Hospital. Timothy McSwiney BDS, MFD RCSI, MOrth RCSEd, DClinDent(Orth), FDS(Orth) RCSEd, Consultant Orthodontist, St James Hospital, Dublin. Email:

Objective: The reader should understand the clinical implications of idiopathic condylar resorption for the treatment of orthodontic/orthognathic patients.