Limited evidence for acupuncture as a symptomatic treatment of TMD


This systematic review looked at whether acupuncture is effective for the treatment of temporomandibular disorders (TMD).

Searches were conducted in 13 databases, Medline, PubMed, The Cochrane Library, CINAHL, EMBASE, seven Korean Medical Databases and a Chinese Medical Database.  The authors looked for parallel or cross-over randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of acupuncture for TMD regardless of blinding, language and type of reporting.  Studies in which no clinical data were reported were excluded, as were complex interventions in which acupuncture was not a sole treatment.  Dissertations and abstracts were included, provided they contained sufficient detail.  Seven RCTs met the inclusion criteria.

They concluded:

the evidence for acupuncture for TMD management, especially for TMJ and masseter muscles pain, is weak. Thus, this conclusion is clearly limited due to the small sample sizes and the small number of included RCTs. Therefore, large-scale, rigorous studies with standardized treatment method in high quality are needed to establish whether acupuncture has definite therapeutic value.

Jung A, Shin BC, Lee MS, Sim H, Ernst E. Acupuncture for treating temporomandibular joint disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, sham-controlled trials. J Dent. 2011 May;39(5):341-50.

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Derek Richards

Derek Richards is a specialist in dental public health, Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Dentistry and Specialist Advisor to the Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme (SDCEP) Development Team. A former editor of the Evidence-Based Dentistry Journal and chief blogger for the Dental Elf website until December 2023. Derek has been involved with a wide range of evidence-based initiatives both nationally and internationally since 1994. Derek retired from the NHS in 2019 remaining as a part-time senior lecturer at Dundee Dental School until the end of 2023.

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