The efficacy of traditional, low-cost and nonsplint therapies for temporomandibular disorder: a randomized controlled trial

Author(s): Truelove E, Huggins KH, Mancl L, Dworkin SF


Background:Treatment recommendations for patients with painful temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) range from conservative treatments such as physiotherapy to aggressive and irreversible treatments such as restorative reconstruction and joint surgery.

Methods:The authors randomized 200 subjects diagnosed with TMD into three groups: usual conservative, dentist-prescribed self-care treatment without any intraoral splint appliance (UT); UT plus a conventional flat-plane hard acrylic splint (HS); and UT plus a soft vinyl (a low-cost athletic mouth guard) splint (SS). Subjects completed questionnaires and clinical examinations at three, six and 12 months.

Results:The authors observed no significant differences among the groups in TMD-related pain levels or other common signs and symptoms of TMD at baseline (BL) or at any follow-up. The changes from BL were comparable for all three groups. The authors did not note any significant differences at any follow-up for compliance with study protocols or for occurrences of adverse effects from either splint type. For HS versus SS, there were significant differences in rates of splint use, but these differences were not accompanied by differences in either self-reported symptoms or in clinical findings.

Conclusions:All patients improved over time, and traditional splint therapy offered no benefit over the SS splint therapy. Neither splint therapy provided a greater benefit than did self-care treatment without splint therapy.

Clinical implications:These findings suggest that clinicians who treat patients with TMD should consider prescribing low-cost nonsplint self-care therapy for most patients.

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