Objective: Temporomandibular dysfunction often represents a major therapeutic problem in a dental practice. Evidence from clinical studies suggests that acupuncture may be useful in the treatment of temporomandibular dysfunction. However, most studies have been performed in university settings. The aims of this study were to determine if the results of acupuncture treatment of temporomandibular dysfunction in general dental practice are comparable to the results obtained in previous studies in university clinics, and whether the treatment approach differs from that used in previous studies.
Methods: The case reports submitted by 15 dentists applying for the diploma of the British Dental Acupuncture Society were combined into one audit. All dentists were informed before submitting the forms that the data might be used for scientific purposes. The criteria for Pain Syndrome Dysfunction were used as inclusion criteria. A visual analogue scale (VAS) was used to assess the pain intensity before and after acupuncture treatment. The acupuncture points and technique used were recorded for each treatment.
Results: A total number of 70 case reports were received. Ten patients were excluded, as they did not fulfil the criteria. The remaining 60 patients (50 female) fulfilled an average of 3.2 of the Pain Syndrome Dysfunction criteria, out of a possible five. Their mean age was 40.6 years (range 14-68). The average duration of temporomandibular dysfunction was 32 months (range 1-180). The patients received a mean of 3.4 treatments, each treatment lasting on average 12 minutes. The dentists used only manual stimulation, and mainly acupuncture points over the temporomandibular joint and in the masticatory muscles, points on the neck, and additional relaxing points. The mean pain scores were 7.35 (SD 1.52) before treatment and 2.67 (SD 0.58) after treatment (P < 0.001). A beneficial effect was observed in 85% with an average reduction in the pain intensity of 75%.
Conclusion: This audit shows that the results of using acupuncture in the treatment of temporomandibular dysfunction in a general dental practice are comparable to those obtained in clinical studies in university settings. Also the therapeutic approach of using acupuncture is similar. Thus, acupuncture is a simple, relatively safe and potentially efficacious and useful technique in the management of temporomandibular dysfunction in a general dental practice.