Aims: To assess the prevalence of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) bony changes in cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) images of adult subjects without ongoing orofacial pain or complaints from the TMJ.
Methods: The study included 84 TMJs from 28 men and 14 women (mean age [± SD]: 51 ± 11 years) without orofacial pain or TMJ complaints who were participants in a study of patients with obstructive sleep apnea. They were examined before any treatment with the Research Diagnostic Criteria for Temporomandibular Disorders and with CBCT (NewTom VGi; 15 × 15 cm, exposure time 18 seconds, axial thickness 0.3 mm). Osseous TMJ deviations were assessed blindly and classified.
Results: Degenerative changes were noted in the CBCT images of 33 (39.3%) of the TMJs, of which 21 were classified as osteoarthritic alterations and 12 as indeterminate changes of osteoarthritis. Two TMJs were clinically classified as osteoarthrosis and 6 as disc displacement with reduction. The CBCT images of the 2 TMJs with a clinical diagnosis of osteoarthrosis showed also bony changes, but the CBCT images also revealed osteoarthritic bony changes in the 18 TMJs without any clinical diagnosis.
Conclusion: CBCT images of asymptomatic adult TMJs commonly show degenerative bony alterations. Accordingly, such radiographic findings should be used with care and only as a supplement to clinical assessment.