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Temporomandibular disorders: a review of current understanding.

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The University of British Columbia, Department of Oral Biological & Medical Sciences, Faculty of Dentistry, Vancouver, Canada.



The purpose of this article is to conduct a narrative review of current evidence regarding the understanding, evaluation, management, and treatment of temporomandibular disorders to provide a broad perspective and updated introduction to an important and controversial subject with rapidly changing developments and limited well-designed research.


Studies were identified through a search of MEDLINE for 3 topics (temporomandibular disorder, temporomandibular joint, and chronic pain) over a 10-year period (January 1988 to August 1998) and of bibliographies of identified studies and review articles.


More than 5000 articles were produced. In-depth review of all of this literature was beyond the scope of the present article, which is intended to provide an overview. The amount and diversity of the literature and the limitations of covering such a broad topic being recognized, the papers selected were those that reviewed limited topics or studied focused areas. This report is not a systematic (qualitative) or meta-analysis (quantitative) review. An acknowledged limitation of this narrative review method lies in the potential for bias in selection. The referenced works do not include all papers reviewed; only pertinent literature and reviews with comprehensive references were selectively included.


Advances in basic and clinical science have resulted in important changes in the understanding and management of temporomandibular disorders. Many treatments are not supported by research, and the role of dentistry is changing to a more diagnostic and management-based model from the hands-on treatment procedures of the past. The present science-based understand-ing of a biopsychosocial disorder is important in properly and responsibly dealing with patients with temporomandibular disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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