Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) are characterized by pain and tenderness in the jaw muscles and joints used for chewing.
TMD is a problem for millions of Americans whose treatment options range from eating soft foods to undergoing open-joint surgery. Whole system naturopathic care as a treatment option has been largely overlooked, until now. The results of a new study involving 160 women in the Kaiser Permanente Health Plan finds that whole system naturopathic care is effective in treating TMD pain.
The study was conducted with 160 volunteer women, ages 25-55, who were patients at the Kaiser Permanente TMD clinic in Portland, OR. Each person was randomly assigned to one of the three study arms: (1) continuing specialty dental care (SDC, n=60); (2) naturopathic medicine (NM, n=45); or (3) traditional Chinese medicine (TCM, n=50).
Women in the naturopathic arm were seen by two community naturopathic physicians during nine visits over a period of 6-8 months, with more frequent visits in the beginning. The naturopathic doctors completed full health evaluations, potential contributory effects, and then applied a set of individualized treatments at each visit using the standard practices for which NDs are licensed in Oregon. Similar protocols existed for the SDC and TCM volunteers.
Patients were assessed according to 12 outcome measures:
Primary: The measures of pain for primary outcomes as estimated by the patient covered the following categories: Worst Headache Pain; Worst Facial Pain; Average Headache Pain; and Average Facial Pain.
Secondary: There were eight secondary measurements comprising 10-point scales measuring the impact of pain on daily and social activities.
Data were collected at baseline and at the end of treatment.
The researchers found the following:
§ All three groups were similar at baseline.
§ At the end of the study all 12 outcome measures favored naturopathic medicine.
§ There were statistically significant improvements in Worst Facial Pain for those receiving naturopathic care vs. specialty dental care. Similarly, Average Headache Pain showed near-significant improvement (p=.06).
§ Of the eight secondary measures only the impact of Facial Pain on Social Activities approached significance (p=.10).
The results demonstrate that while pain outcomes improved for those undergoing both NM and SDC treatment for TMD, patients undergoing NM care benefited more. The data demonstrate the feasibility of conducting clinical trials using whole system naturopathic medicine, and paves the way for further research in larger samples.