What you can and cannot see in TMJ imaging--an overview related to the RDC/TMD diagnostic system

J Oral Rehabil. 2010 Oct;37(10):771-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2842.2010.02108.x. Epub 2010 May 18.


In the current version (I) of the Research Diagnostic Criteria for Temporomandibular Disorders (RDC/TMD), imaging of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is not required for a diagnosis. Research has shown that radiological findings of the TMJ do not always support the clinical findings of the RDC/TMD diagnosis. But imaging should only be performed when it is known that it could contribute to (i) a proper diagnosis and (ii) treatment with a better prognosis. Several techniques are used to image the TMJ: panoramic radiography, plain radiography, conventional and computed tomography (CT), digital volume tomography or cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT), arthrography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Osseous changes are best visualized in tomography, and the newly developed CBCT is a promising method but must be evaluated in a comparative analysis with other tomographic techniques. And although MRI is the method of choice for imaging the disc, a systematic review found the evidence grade for the diagnostic efficacy of MRI to be insufficient. Today, there is no clear evidence for when TMD patients should be examined with imaging methods. Future research designs should be randomized controlled trials where various radiological examination findings are analysed in relation to therapeutic outcome. In future versions of the RDC/TMD diagnostic system, recommended radiographic techniques must be evaluated and defined, diagnostic criteria well defined and observers calibrated.

MeSH terms

  • Arthrography
  • Comparative Effectiveness Research
  • Cone-Beam Computed Tomography
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiography, Panoramic
  • Reference Standards
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders / pathology*
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders / therapy
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed