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British Dental Journal 202, 181 (2007)
Published online: 24 February 2007 | doi:10.1038/bdj.2007.156

Easing the pain for TMD suffers

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Easing the pain for TMD suffers

Participants were given relaxation training

A new supplemental therapy that teaches pain coping and biofeedback skills can reduce pain from a common jaw disorder, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found. The trial evaluated early biopsychosocial intervention, which aims to help people at risk of developing chronic pain due to temporomandibular disorder, or TMD.

The UT Southwestern trial of the supplemental therapy showed patients how to self manage their pain and a combination of coping techniques and tips on controlling stress-related bodily functions. The six-week intervention teaches patients about the mind-body relationship, the body's reaction to stress and relaxation training in everyday settings. Instruction also is given on biofeedback (the use of monitoring equipment attached to the body to record changes in muscle tension, respiration and temperature) to teach a person to control those functions generally considered involuntary.

Trial participants of 20 men and 81 women who ranged in age from 18 to 70 were divided into two groups. One group got an intervention and standard dental care and the other received standard care alone.

The results, described in a study online in the Journal of the American Dental Association and in another study published in the journal's March 2006 issue, show that those who received the intervention had significantly lower levels of pain and fewer doctor visits.

While standard care for TMD, such as medication, physical therapy and surgery, can be expensive, study participants in the intervention group spent less money on treatment than those with no intervention, said Dr Anna Stowell, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Anesthesiology and Pain Management at UT Southwestern and co-author of the studies.

About 50 of the study participants received the intervention and a year later reported reduced levels of pain. They also displayed improved coping abilities and better moods and emotions, Dr Stowell said. The other half of the participants, who did not undergo intervention, made many more trips to a doctor to seek pain treatment. They also reported more general anxiety and other disorders

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