Management of painful Temporomandibular disorder in adults

TMJ diagram
The comprehensive guideline on the management of painful temporomandibular disorder (TMD) in adults, developed by NHS England’s Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) program and the Royal College of Surgeons’ Faculty of Dental Surgery, aims to support healthcare professionals in diagnosing and managing TMD. TMD affects up to 1 in 15 people in the UK, particularly in the 20-40 age range, with a slightly higher incidence in females. It includes conditions affecting the mastication muscles, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and associated structures. Early treatment with simple, reversible management can significantly improve outcomes.

The guideline outlines TMD symptoms, including pain in the TMJ and muscles of mastication, joint noises, ear pain, and headaches. It highlights the multifactorial aetiology of TMD, involving biological, psychological, and social factors.

Stressful life situations, mood, sleep, social activities, and eating habits can all contribute to or exacerbate TMD symptoms.

A thorough patient history and clinical examination are crucial for diagnosis. The document stresses the importance of considering other conditions that might mimic TMD symptoms and acknowledges the complex relationship between TMD and conditions like bruxism and obstructive sleep apnoea.

Management strategies focus on non-invasive and conservative care, emphasizing patient education, self-exercise therapy, thermal modalities, self-massage therapy, and management of parafunctional behaviours. The guideline also discusses the potential benefits of manual therapy, physiotherapy, and exercise, and highlights the importance of psychological management in treating TMD. Advanced treatment options, such as pharmacological management, low-level laser therapy, and splint therapy, are considered for more persistent cases, with a note on the importance of a holistic approach and consideration of comorbidities.

Download to read – Comprehensive guideline Management of painful Temporomandibular disorder in adults March 2024.pdf

The document is a valuable resource for dental and medical professionals, offering evidence-based approaches for TMD care. It aims to improve the quality of life for individuals with TMD through structured care pathways and informed, evidence-based treatment strategies.

Download to read – TMD Patient support document March 2024.pdf

In summary

The “Management of Painful Temporomandibular Disorder in Adults” patient summary document, provided by NHS England’s Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) and the Royal College of Surgeons’ Faculty of Dental Surgery, outlines essential self-care and treatment modalities for patients suffering from Temporomandibular disorders (TMD). These disorders are prevalent, affecting 1 in 15 individuals in the UK, primarily within the 20-40 age range. TMD encompasses conditions affecting the chewing muscles, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and associated structures, with symptoms ranging from jaw pain and difficulty in jaw use to joint noises.

The document emphasises that early treatment with simple, reversible management techniques significantly aids in most cases, either resolving the issue or making it manageable. It also highlights the multifactorial nature of TMD, involving biological, psychological, and social factors, and notes the commonality of conditions such as anxiety, depression, and fibromyalgia among individuals with TMD.

Key supported self-management strategies include:

  • Daily Living and Habit Changes: Avoid stimulants like caffeine, engage in self-care and relaxation, adapt diet during pain episodes to softer foods, avoid unnecessary jaw strain (like chewing gum or biting nails), maintain teeth apart when not eating, and ensure ergonomic postures during daily activities.
  • Diaphragmatic Breathing: Practicing deep, slow breaths to aid relaxation and reduce stress and tension.
  • Thermal Modalities: Applying moist heat or ice to affected areas to alleviate pain, with suggestions to experiment with both to find the most effective relief.
  • Facial Massage: Specific techniques for massaging the temporalis and masseter muscles to relieve tension and pain.

Coordination Training: Exercises to improve jaw movement and alignment, including the ‘n-stretch’ for retrusive jaw position and practising straight opening in front of a mirror.

Additional exercises tailored to specific TMD conditions, such as isometric tension exercises for muscular TMD and static stretching for reduced mouth opening, are also provided. These techniques, along with mobilisation exercises for disc displacement with reduction, are designed to support jaw function and relieve symptoms.

The document also offers resources for further support, including links to self-physiotherapy exercises, dietary advice, and more comprehensive information on managing TMD.

This patient summary document serves as a crucial guide for individuals with TMD, providing them with action.

For Dentists, the guidelines published in 2024 is a chart that should be used and followed in Primary care practice.

Download to read – A3 Evidence based TMD care pathway March 2024.pdf

The “Evidence based care pathway for the management of painful Temporomandibular disorder in adults,” provided by NHS England’s Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) and the Royal College of Surgeons’ Faculty of Dental Surgery, outlines a structured approach to diagnosing, treating, and managing Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) in adults.

This care pathway emphasises early intervention, supported self-management (SSM), and appropriate escalation of care depending on the individual’s response to treatment.
Key points of the care pathway include:

  • Early Identification: Utilization of the three-question TMD screener (3Q/TMD) for early identification of potential TMD and differentiation between myogenous TMD (M-TMD) and arthrogenous TMD (A-TMD).
  • Initial Assessment and Management: The pathway encourages initial assessments such as the Characteristic Pain Intensity (CPI) and the use of supported self-management strategies. For individuals with signs of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) or a Patient Health Questionnaire 4 (PHQ4) score indicating anxiety or depression, referrals to relevant specialists or services are advised.
  • Progressive Care Steps: The pathway details a series of progressively intensive treatment options, beginning with self-care and lifestyle adjustments, and advancing through more specific interventions based on the patient’s specific TMD type and their response to initial treatments.
  • Maintenance and Monitoring: At any point where the patient feels comfortable and sees improvement, they can choose to maintain their current level of care without progressing to more intensive treatments.
  • Complex Cases: For cases where traditional management steps have been exhausted without sufficient improvement, referral to a national virtual Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) is suggested, acknowledging the complexity and comorbidity of TMD with other conditions.

The document underscores the importance of a patient-centred approach, encouraging maintenance when the patient is satisfied with their condition and highlighting the need for specialised care in complex cases.

It also notes the development of a national virtual MDT to support patients with significant complexity or comorbidities, indicating ongoing efforts to enhance care for individuals with TMD.

In Conclusion

Download to read – TMD Clinician summary document March 2024.pdf

In the management of painful Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) at Tracey Bell Dental and Aesthetic Medical Clinic, we integrate the comprehensive guidelines provided by NHS England’s Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) program and the Royal College of Surgeons’ Faculty of Dental Surgery. This approach underscores the commonality of TMD, affecting 1 in 15 people in the UK, and its multifaceted nature, which can stem from muscular, joint, or a combination of issues.

Our focus is on early, simple, and reversible management strategies that have been shown to improve the majority of cases, either through resolution or by making the condition intermittent and manageable. Recognizing the potential for myogenous TMD to persist and the generally stable nature of arthrogenous TMD is crucial in tailoring our treatment plans.

A thorough exploration of both physical symptoms—such as pain, joint noises, and headaches—and psychological and social factors that could exacerbate TMD is integral to our approach. This comprehensive assessment helps in identifying not only the TMD but also any comorbid conditions like fibromyalgia, depression, or anxiety, which may influence treatment outcomes.

Our clinic emphasizes the importance of early and accurate diagnosis, supported self-management (SSM), and patient education. Treatment plans are developed collaboratively with our patients, involving them actively in their care. Core components of SSM include diagnosis, education about the condition, self-exercise therapy, thermal modalities, self-massage therapy, diet and nutrition advice, and management of parafunctional behaviours.

In complex cases where initial management strategies are insufficient, we may consider referrals for further assessment and treatment, including surgical options for severe cases. Our approach is underpinned by an awareness of potential biases in treatment planning and a commitment to providing equitable care to all our patients.
At Tracey Bell, we are dedicated to employing evidence-based practices for the management of TMD, ensuring our patients receive the most effective, non-invasive, and conservative care possible. Our goal is not just to treat TMD but to empower our patients with the knowledge and tools they need for self-care and to prevent recurrence, thereby enhancing their overall quality of life.

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