Reduction in parafunctional activity: a potential mechanism for the effectiveness of splint therapy

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Abstract

SUMMARY

Interocclusal splints may be an effective modality in the management of temporomandibular disorders (TMD), but there is little evidence regarding the mechanism by which splints work. This study tested the hypothesis that pain reduction produced by splints is associated with reduction in parafunctional activity. In a two-group, single-blinded randomized clinical trial, patients diagnosed with myofascial pain received full coverage hard maxillary stabilization splints. Patients were instructed to maintain or avoid contact with the splint for the 6 weeks of active treatment. Patients who decreased the intensity of tooth contact were expected to show the greatest alleviation of pain, and those who maintained or increased contact were expected to report lesser reductions in pain. Experience-sampling methodology was used to collect data on pain and parafunctional behaviours at pre-treatment and during the final week of treatment. Patients were reminded approximately every 2 h by pagers to maintain/avoid contact with the splint. The amount of change in intensity of tooth contact accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in pain change scores. Patients who reduced tooth contact intensity the most reported greater relief from pain. Splints may produce therapeutic effects by reducing parafunctional activities associated with TMD pain.

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