Occlusal treatments in temporomandibular disorders: a qualitative systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Pain. 1999 Dec;83(3):549-560. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(99)00160-8.


Occlusal treatments (occlusal splints and occlusal adjustment) are controversial but widely used treatment methods for temporomandibular disorders (TMD). To investigate whether studies are in agreement with current clinical practices, a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of occlusal treatment studies from the period 1966 to March 1999 was undertaken. Eighteen studies met the inclusion criteria, 14 on splint therapy, and 4 on occlusal adjustment. The trials were scored using the quality scale presented by Antczak et al., 1986a (A.A. Antczak, J. Tang, T.C. Chalmers, Quality assessment of randomized control trials in dental research. I. Methods, J. Periodontal Res. 1986a;21:305-314). The overall quality of the trials was fairly low, the mean quality score was 0.43/1.00 (range 0.12-0.78). The most obvious methodological shortcomings were inadequate blinding, small sample sizes, short follow-up times, great diversity of outcome measures and numerous control treatments, some of unknown effectiveness. Splint therapy was found superior to 3, and comparable to 12 control treatments, and superior or comparable to 4 passive controls, respectively. Occlusal adjustment was found comparable to 2 and inferior to one control treatment and comparable to passive control in one study. Because of the methodological problems, only suggestive conclusions can be drawn. The use of occlusal splints may be of some benefit in the treatment of TMD. Evidence for the use of occlusal adjustment is lacking. There is an obvious need for well designed controlled studies to analyse the current clinical practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Occlusal Adjustment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occlusal Splints / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders / therapy*