Temporomandibular Disorders and Dental Occlusion, A Systematic Review of Association Studies: End of an Era?
To answer a clinical research question: 'is there any association between features of dental occlusion and temporomandibular disorders (TMD)?' A systematic literature review was performed. Inclusion was based on: (i) the type of study, viz., clinical studies on adults assessing the association between TMD (e.g., signs, symptoms, specific diagnoses) and features of dental occlusion by means of single or multiple variable analysis, and (ii) their internal validity, viz., use of clinical assessment approaches to TMD diagnosis. The search accounted for 25 papers included in the review, 10 of which with multiple variable analysis. Quality assessment showed some possible shortcomings, mainly related with the unspecified representativeness of study populations. Seventeen (N = 17) articles compared TMD patients with non-TMD individuals, whilst eight papers compared the features of dental occlusion in individuals with TMD signs/symptoms and healthy subjects in non-patient populations. Findings are quite consistent towards a lack of clinically relevant association between TMD and dental occlusion. Only two (i.e., centric relation [CR]-maximum intercuspation [MI] slide and mediotrusive interferences) of the almost forty occlusion features evaluated in the various studies were associated with TMD in the majority (e.g., at least 50%) of single variable analyses in patient populations. Only mediotrusive interferences are associated with TMD in the majority of multiple variable analyses. Such association does not imply a causal relationship and may even have opposite implications than commonly believed (i.e., interferences being the result, and not the cause, of TMD). Findings support the absence of a disease-specific association. Based on that, there seems to lack ground to further hypothesise a role for dental occlusion in the pathophysiology of TMD. Clinicians are encouraged to abandon the old gnathological paradigm in TMD practice.