No drugs specifically targeted to treat temporomandibular disorders (TMD) have ever been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Yet many drugs—analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), opioids, muscle relaxants and others—are commonly prescribed. How effective are they?
To answer that, two dentist—Ph.D. researchers, Drs. Sharon Gordon and Raymond Dionne, and a graduate research fellow, Archana Viswanath, combed the medical literature published over five decades to see which drugs showed some measure of effectiveness in reducing pain and/or improving function in TMD patients.
In gathering the data, Dr. Gordon, associate professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at U. Maryland School of Dentistry, and Dr. Dionne, with a Ph.D. in pharmacology and 25 years of clinical research at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, selected only those articles where the level of evidence was relatively strong, such as randomized controlled clinical trials (as opposed to case studies, for example).
They have now provided the TMJA with a summary of their results and a table categorizing the type of drug, the level of evidence and whether or not it demonstrated effectiveness.
The good news is that drugs in several categories proved effective. But the investigators conclude that more research is needed, especially in light of the finding that many TMD patients experience comorbid painful conditions, necessitating new drug discoveries.