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Tempomandibular Joint Disease (TMD) - Prolotherapy Study From "Practical Pain Management", Oct 2007

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Authors: Ross A. Hauser, MD; Marion A. Hauser, MS, RD; and Krista A. Blakemore, BA.

Practical Pain Management. 2007; November/December:49-55.


According to the American Dental Association, more than 15% of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain.1 One of the most common causes is Tempomandibular Joint Disease (TMD), a collective term used to describe a group of medical disorders causing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain and dysfunction, and is estimated by The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health to affect 10.8 million people in the United States at any given time.2 It occurs predominantly in women, with the female to male ratio ranging from 2:1 to 6:1, with 90% of those seeking treatment being women in their childbearing years.3,4

The TMJ is often predisposed to similar degenerative changes and pathologies seen in other synovial joints as a consequence of the frequent and repetitive stresses that the TMJ undergoes.5 Symptoms commonly associated with TMD include pain at the TMJ, generalized orofacial pain, chronic headaches and ear aches, jaw dysfunction including hyper- and hypo-mobility and limited movement or locking of the jaw, painful clicking or popping sounds with opening or closing of the mouth, and difficulty chewing or speaking.6 While pain is the most common symptom, some people report no pain, but still have problems using their jaws. Sometimes the bite just feels “off.” Additional symptoms may include ringing in the ears, ear pain, decreased hearing, dizziness, and vision problems.7

The first-line approach to managing TMD typically includes resting the jaw, relaxing the jaw muscles, and doing jaw exercises as recommended by a physical therapist.8 Recommendations may also include eating a soft diet that minimizes hard repetitive chewing of crunchy or chewy foods, such as bagels and steak. All gum chewing must be stopped, talking minimized, and teeth clenching discouraged. Relaxation exercises that emphasize gentle range of motion of the joint are recommended. Application of warm compresses to the affected area twice daily, for 10 minutes, to decrease pain and increase joint movement are done. If this fails, then typically a short course of an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen is prescribed and often a dental consultation is given. The dentist then evaluates the patient for malocclusion and bruxism. Many times, a mouth splint used at night can completely resolve or control the problem.

When pain, clicking, and locking symptoms persist, TMD sufferers commonly seek out the advice of a myriad of TMJ dental and surgical specialists. Because the causes of TMD are varied and run the gamut from mechanical issues—such as disc degeneration and dislocation or erosion of the fibrocartilagenous surfaces of the condyle, fossa and articular eminence—to hormonal as well as psychological causes,9,10,11  the treatment approaches for the chronic TMJ case are also quite varied. As surgery is considered a last resort for TMD, it is common for sufferers to seek out alternatives and one of the treatments they may consider is prolotherapy.

This article presents a retrospective analysis of patients who received dextrose prolotherapy to their tempomandibular joints, and was conducted on a patient population from a charity clinic in rural Illinois. Patients were called by an independent data collector and asked numerous questions concerning their response to the dextrose prolotherapy they received. The data was analyzed in all TMJ pain patients, as well as a subset whose medical doctors told them there were no other treatment options for their TMJ dysfunction and pain.