No evidence to support the effectiveness of low-level laser therapy for treatment of temporomandibular disorders


The aim of this review was  to  assess the scientific evidence on the efficacy of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in the treatment of temporomandibular disorders (TMD). The authors searched  the  PubMed, Science Direct, Cochrane Clinical Trials Register, and PEDro databases.  Papers were screened, extracted, and quality assessed  independently by two  reviewers.

A meta-analysis- was performed to quantify the pooled effect of LLLT on pain and function in patients with chronic TMD. The primary outcome of interest was the change in pain from baseline to endpoint.

From the 323 papers found  by the search strategy  they identified six randomized clinical trials (RCT) met the inclusion criteria.

The found that:-

  • The pooled effect of LLLT on pain, measured through a visual analog scale with a mean difference of 7.77 mm (95% confidence interval [CI]: -2.49 to 18.02), was not statistically significant from placebo.
  • Change from baseline to endpoint of secondary outcomes was
    • 4.04 mm (95% CI 3.06 to 5.02) for mandibular maximum vertical opening;
    • 1.64 mm (95% CI 0.10 to 3.17) for right lateral excursion and
    • 1.90 mm (95% CI: -4.08 to 7.88) for left lateral excursion.

The authors concluded

Currently, there is no evidence to support the effectiveness of LLLT in the treatment of TMD.

Petrucci A, Sgolastra F, Gatto R, Mattei A, Monaco A. Effectiveness of low-level laser therapy in temporomandibular disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Orofac Pain. 2011 Fall;25(4):298-307.



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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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