A simple procedure, Arthrocentesis is used when the jaw joint becomes locked or extremely swollen. The treatment involves the injecting and/or draining of fluid from the joint using a sterile needle and syringe.

A joint can sometimes swell as a result of infection, gout or arthritis. When this happens in the jaw, it can cause the jaw to lock. After a local anaesthetic has been administered, the needle is injected into the joint. The fluid is then sucked back into the syringe.

If the cause has not already been diagnosed, the fluid may then be sent to a pathologist for examination.

Washing Out the Jaw Joint

If the small disc of cartilage in your jaw joint moves out of position, this can also cause the jaw to lock.

Arthrocentesis can be used to wash out the jaw joint by injecting a sterile fluid, before removing the fluid with a second needle and syringe. This cleans and rinses the area of the joint and helps return the disc of cartilage to it’s correct position.


Arthrocentesis is a minimally invasive procedure, so recovery time is quick. There may be some pain or discomfort at first, but any over the counter painkiller can be used until it improves. Some dentists recommend sticking to soft foods at first as the jaw may still be difficult to open for a few days.

Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding with a surgical or invasive procedure, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.


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