Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or sometimes TMD) can be hard to treat. Even once we’ve overcome the problem of diagnosis, there are many potential approaches that can provide relief, although not everyone sees results from all treatments. It can be hard to know which treatment people should try first to get relief.
But now a comprehensive review can give some guidance. Researchers found that treatment with an occlusal splint tended to give faster results than other TMJ treatments.
Gold Standard Data
The scientific evidence for occlusal splints has been hard to weigh properly. Some studies show they work, others are less certain. To provide a comprehensive analysis of the data, researchers from the School of Dental Medicine University of Belgrade performed a meta-analysis of all RCTs on occlusal splints, including randomized and quasi-randomized clinical trials.
RCTs are the gold standard of evidence in medicine: they are considered to give us the best information about the safety and effectiveness of medical interventions. It’s also important to note that these RCTs were comparing occlusal splints with positive treatments, as well as placebo or no treatment. That gives us a good idea about how well occlusal splints work compared to other interventions.
This insistence on quality studies gives us good faith in its conclusions.
Complex Symptoms Required
Researchers were also demanding in the TMJ symptoms used in the studies. It was vital that the studies were really looking at the treatment of TMJ, which is a complex condition that causes numerous different symptoms. To make sure the studies fit, researchers required that TMJ patients in studies show more than one of the following symptoms:
- Spontaneous jaw joint pain or myofascial pain
- Pain in the jaw or face that responds to touch
- Muscle tenderness
- Limited jaw motion or irregular jaw motion
- Limited mouth opening
- Jaw sounds
- Headache or earache
With these criteria they were able to identify 33 RCTs with a total of 1779 patients. A minority of patients (848) received occlusal splints, with the rest in control groups.
In these studies, the occlusal splint was compared with many treatment alternatives, including:
- Nonoccluding splint
- Physical therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Minimal treatment (exercise and counseling)
- No treatment
When they compiled the data for all these studies, they found that for short-term results, occlusal splints had a definite advantage over other treatment choices. Occlusal splints reduced pain, decreased muscle tenderness, and improved mouth opening better than other treatments.
But in long-term follow-up, all the treatments provided comparable benefits.
Are You Looking for Fast Relief for TMJ?
There are many potential treatment options that can help with TMJ, but if you are looking for a treatment that can give rapid relief from your symptoms, occlusal splints have a definite advantage.