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Treatment of temporomandibular disorders by stabilising splints in general dental practice: Results after initial treatment

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Robert Wassell


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Introduction: Little is known about how effective general dental practitioners (GDPs) are in treating temporomandibular disorders (TMD). The overall aim of this study was to compare the lower stabilising splint (SS) with a non-occluding control (CS) for the management of TMD in general dental practice. Method: A total of 93 TMD patients attending 11 GDPs were randomly allocated to SS or CS. Diagnosis was according to International Headache Society Criteria. Outcome criteria included pain visual analogue scale (VAS), number of tender muscles, aggregate joint tenderness, inter-incisal opening, TMJ clicks and headaches. Splints were fitted one week after baseline and patients were followed-up every three weeks to three months; those not responding to CS after six weeks (< 50% VAS reduction) were crossed over to SS for a further three months. Results: Documentation was returned from nine GDPs for 72 patients (38 for SS, 34 for CS). At six weeks, mean improvements were noted for all outcome criteria, but less so for clicking. There were no significant differences between splints [χ2]. Seventeen CS patients had < 50% VAS reduction and were provided with SS in the cross-over group. CS patients with >50% VAS reduction were significantly younger than CS patients who crossed-over (ANOVA, p=0.009) and had significantly less diagnoses of TMJ clicking (χ2, p<0.05). At the conclusion of the trial 16 patients were referred for specialist management: 11 non-responders (< 50% VAS reduction), one of whom needed occlusal adjustment and five responders also needing occlusal adjustment. Conclusions: At six weeks SS gave similar relief to CS for all outcome criteria. Patients who crossed-over from CS to SS were more likely to be older and have clicking TMJs. At the end of treatment nine of 11 non-responders to SS had a diagnosis of disc displacement with reduction. However, 80% TMD patients were managed effectively by GDPs using splints for periods of up to five months.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wassell RW, Adams N, Kelly PJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Dental Journal

Year: 2004

Volume: 197

Issue: 1

Pages: 35-41

Print publication date: 10/07/2004

ISSN (print): 0007-0610

ISSN (electronic): 1476-5373

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/sj.bdj.4811420

PubMed id: 15243608


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