Science Policy

Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

The AADOCR recognizes that temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) encompass a group of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions that involve the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), the masticatory muscles, and all associated tissues. The signs and symptoms associated with these disorders are diverse, and may include difficulties with chewing, speaking, and other orofacial functions. They also are frequently associated with acute or persistent pain, and the patients often suffer from other painful disorders (comorbidities). The chronic forms of TMD pain may lead to absence from or impairment of work or social interactions, resulting in an overall reduction in the quality of life.

Based on the evidence from clinical trials as well as experimental and epidemiologic studies:

It is recommended that the differential diagnosis of TMDs or related orofacial pain conditions should be based primarily on information obtained from the patient's history, clinical examination, and when indicated TMJ radiology or other imaging procedures. The choice of adjunctive diagnostic procedures should be based upon published, peer-reviewed data showing diagnostic efficacy and safety. However, the consensus of recent scientific literature about currently available technological diagnostic devices for TMDs is that except for various imaging modalities, none of them shows the sensitivity and specificity required to separate normal subjects from TMD patients or to distinguish among TMD subgroups. Currently, standard medical diagnostic or laboratory tests that are used for evaluating similar orthopedic, rheumatological and neurological disorders may also be utilized when indicated with TMD patients. In addition, various standardized and validated psychometric tests may be used to assess the psychosocial dimensions of each patient’s TMD problem.

It is strongly recommended that, unless there are specific and justifiable indications to the contrary, treatment of TMD patients initially should be based on the use of conservative, reversible and evidence-based therapeutic modalities. Studies of the natural history of many TMDs suggest that they tend to improve or resolve over time. While no specific therapies have been proven to be uniformly effective, many of the conservative modalities have proven to be at least as effective in providing symptomatic relief as most forms of invasive treatment. Because those modalities do not produce irreversible changes, they present much less risk of producing harm. Professional treatment should be augmented with a home care program, in which patients are taught about their disorder and how to manage their symptoms.

(adopted 1996, revised 2010, reaffirmed 2015)