The relationship between temporomandibular disorders and stress-associated syndromes

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Abstract

Objectives.

The purpose of this study was to determine the comorbidity of temporomandibular disorders and other stress-associated conditions in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Study Design.

Of 92 patients who fulfilled the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia (or both), 39 (42%) reported a prior diagnosis of temporomandibular disorder. Further questionnaires were sent to the members of this group, and 30 patients responded.

Results.

Of the original 92 patients, of whom 42% reported temporomandibular disorders, 46% had histories of irritable bowel syndrome, 42% of premenstrual syndrome, and 19% of interstitial cystitis. Of the patients with temporomandibular disorders, the great majority reported an onset of generalized symptoms before the onset of facial pain. Despite this, 75% had been treated exclusively for temporomandibular disorders, usually with bite splints.

Conclusions.

Patients appearing for treatment with chronic facial pain show a high comorbidity with other stress-associated syndromes. The clinical overlap between these conditions may reflect a shared underlying pathophysiologic basis involving dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal stress hormone axis in predisposed individuals. A multidisciplinary clinical approach to temporomandibular disorders would improve diagnosis and treatment outcomes for this group of patients.

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