Efficacy of occlusal splints in the treatment of temporomandibular disorders: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Acta Odontol Scand. 2020 Nov;78(8):580-589. doi: 10.1080/00016357.2020.1759818. Epub 2020 May 18.


Objective: This systematic review aimed to assess the efficacy of occlusal splints in the treatment of temporomandibular disorders (TMDs).

Material and methods: This systematic review was conducted according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines. Four databases (Medline via Pubmed, Web of Science, Embase and Scopus) were searched, the last search was conducted on April 2020. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) employing the Diagnostic Criteria for Temporomandibular Disorders (DC/TMD) or Research Diagnostic Criteria for Temporomandibular Disorders (RDC/TMD) as diagnostic criteria and including occlusal splint as one of the experimental groups were included in the present study. The data from the included studies were extracted and assessed for risk of bias.

Results: Eleven studies were included. The sample size ranged from 12 to 96 subjects. The male to female ratio was 0 to 25%. The mean length of follow-up was 4 months. Occlusal splint had a positive effect on mandibular movements in all included studies. Seven studies showed a positive effect of occlusal splint on chronic pain reduction and pain intensity, while two others showed improvement of temporomandibular joint clicking sounds and locking of the jaws. Moreover, improvements in mouth opening, depression, and anxiety symptoms, were reported in four studies.

Conclusions: An occlusal splint can be considered as a non-invasive treatment approach for patients with TMD, especially those with signs and symptoms of restriction of mandibular movement and pain. Moreover, the present findings highlighted an urgent need of a standardised consensus regarding the prognostic evaluation of TMD.

Keywords: Occlusal splints; joint pain; masticatory muscle disorders; movement disorders; temporomandibular joint disorders.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandible
  • Occlusal Splints*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome