Efficacy of topical interventions for temporomandibular disorders compared to placebo or control therapy: a systematic review with meta-analysis

  • Mena, Mariam (Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC) ;
  • Dalbah, Lana (Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC) ;
  • Levi, Lauren (Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC) ;
  • Padilla, Mariela (Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC) ;
  • Enciso, Reyes (Division of Dental Public Health and Pediatric Dentistry, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of University of Southern California)
  • Received : 2020.08.27
  • Accepted : 2020.11.23
  • Published : 2020.12.31


This systematic review focused on the efficacy of topical products in reducing temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)-associated pain, in comparison to placebo or control interventions. The EMBASE, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, and MEDLINE via PubMed databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) using topical interventions in adults diagnosed with TMD. The pain intensity was the primary outcome, and other clinical findings were the secondary outcomes. The risk of bias was evaluated according to the Cochrane's handbook. The search up to February 7, 2020 identified a total of 496 unduplicated references. Nine RCTs with 355 adult patients diagnosed with TMD were included. The meta-analysis did not show a significant reduction in baseline pain intensity in the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) group, when compared to the placebo group (P = 0.288). One study demonstrated a statistically significant pain score decrease for Theraflex-TMJ compared to placebo after 10 d of treatment (P = 0.003) and follow-up, 5 d after the last application (P = 0.027). Ping On reduced pain at 4 weeks of application (P < 0.001) but not after 7 d of application (P = 0.136). In one study, cannabidiol (CBD) significantly improved the pain intensity compared to placebo (P < 0.001). However, no differences were found with capsaicin in the two studies (P = 0.465). Evidence was of low quality because the studies were considered as having an unclear or a high risk of bias and a small number of studies were analyzed. The evidence is not sufficient to support the use of topical NSAIDs and capsaicin, and limited evidence was found for Threraflex-TMJ, bee venom, Ping On, and CBD, with only one study reporting for each. Additional studies are recommended to validate these results.



The protocol was sent to PROSPERO on December 1, 2019 and published on July 21, 2020 with registration # CRD42020160723.


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