Acupuncture effective for TMD




Oral Dis

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Kava Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
Professional Data: Kava Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)


In its 1996 consensus statement, the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference defined temporomandibular disorders as follows: Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) refer to a collection of medical and dental conditions affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and/or the muscles of mastication, as well as contiguous tissue components. Although specific etiologies such as degenerative arthritis and trauma underlie some TMD, as a group these conditions have no common cause or biological explanation and comprise a group of health problems whose signs and symptoms are overlapping, but not necessarily identical.1 In simpler terms, it is a condition which causes pain in the jaw muscle and has received a lot of attention as a cause of chronic headaches.

Based on the nature of TMD, it is reasonable that acupuncture would be useful as an alternative treatment. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that involves piercing strategic points on the body with needles. This is a relatively painless procedure and is performed by a licensed acupuncturist. While this practice has been used in China for over 2,000 years, its use in the United States is relatively new. Acupuncture is one element of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes other modalities such as herbal therapies and massage. It is difficult for people born and raised in a culture like the United States to understand how Traditional Chinese Medicine works because it is a complex and complicated medical system that uses theories and practices that Westerners are not used to. For this reason, acceptance by the medical profession has been slow.

A recent review of all available literature on the use of acupuncture for TMD indicates that it is indeed effective. Researchers in the United Kingdom report that acupuncture was effective in three out of three clinical studies reviewed. That is a high rate of reported success and indicates that acupuncture should be considered when establishing a treatment protocol for patients diagnosed with TMD.2


1. National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Consensus Statement, Volume 0. 1996.
2. Rosted P. Practical recommendations for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of temporomandibular disorders based on the outcome of published controlled studies. Oral Dis 2001 Mar;7(2):109-15.