Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

Number 2.01.21

Effective Date September 8, 2014

Revision Date(s) 09/08/14; 09/09/13; 09/11/12; 09/13/11; 08/10/10; 06/09/09; 07/08/08; 04/10/07; 08/12/03; 08/13/02; 11/03/98

Replaces N/A


The following diagnostic procedures may be considered medically necessary in the diagnosis of TMJ dysfunction:

  • Diagnostic x-ray, tomograms, and arthrograms;
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (in general, CT scans and MRIs are reserved for presurgical evaluations);
  • Cephalograms (x-rays of jaws and skull);
  • Pantograms (x-rays of maxilla and mandible).

(Cephalograms and pantograms should be reviewed on an individual basis.)

The following diagnostic procedures are considered investigational in the diagnosis of TMJ dysfunction:

  • Arthroscopy of the TMJ for purely diagnostic purposes;
  • Computerized mandibular scan (this measures and records muscle activity related to movement and positioning of the mandible and is intended to detect deviations in occlusion and muscle spasms related to TMJ dysfunction);)
  • Electromyography (EMG), including surface EMG;
  • Intra-oral tracing or gothic arch tracing (intended to demonstrate deviations in the positioning of the jaws that are associated with TMJ dysfunction)
  • Joint vibration analysis
  • Kinesiography;
  • Muscle testing;
  • Neuromuscular junction testing;
  • Range-of-motion measurements;
  • Somatosensory testing;
  • Standard dental radiographic procedures;
  • Thermography;
  • Transcranial or lateral skull x-rays; Intraoral tracing or gothic arch tracing (intended to demonstrate deviations in the positioning of the jaws that are associated with TMJ dysfunction);
  • Ultrasound imaging/sonogram;

The following nonsurgical treatments may be considered medically necessary in the treatment of TMJ dysfunction:

  • Intraoral removable prosthetic devices/appliances (encompassing fabrication, insertion, adjustment);
  • Pharmacologic treatment (such as anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxing, analgesic medications).

The following nonsurgical treatments are considered investigational in the treatment of TMJ dysfunction:

  • Biofeedback ;
  • Dental restorations/prostheses;
  • Ultrasound;
  • Devices promoted to maintain joint range of motion and to develop muscles involved in jaw function ;
  • Electrogalvanic stimulation;
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Iontophoresis;
  • Orthodontic services;
  • Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS);)
  • Physical therapy, including diathermy, infrared and heat and cold treatment, and manipulation;
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS);
  • Acupuncture;
  • Hyaluronic acid.

The following surgical treatments may be considered medically necessary in the treatment of TMJ dysfunction:

  • Arthrocentesis ;
  • Arthroscopic surgery in patients with objectively demonstrated (by physical examination or imaging) internal derangements (displaced discs) or degenerative joint disease who have failed conservative treatment;
  • Manipulation for reduction of fracture or dislocation of the TMJ;
  • Open surgical procedures (when TMJ dysfunction is the result of congenital anomalies, trauma, or disease in patients who have failed conservative treatment) including, but not limited to arthroplasties; condylectomies; :
  • Meniscus or disc plication
  • and Disc removal.

Related Policies


Intra-articular Hyaluronan Injections for Osteoarthritis


Orthognathic Surgery

Policy Guidelines

This medical policy specifically applies to a group of disorders characterized by ongoing pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

For symptoms of isolated bruxism and/or pain associated with the muscles of mastication alone, consult the member’s dental contract for benefits.


Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction refers to a group of disorders characterized by pain in the TMJ and surrounding tissues. Initial conservative therapy is generally recommended; there are also a variety of non-surgical and surgical treatment possibilities for patients whose symptoms persist.


TMJ dysfunction (also known as TMJ disorders) refers to a cluster of problems associated with the TMJ and musculoskeletal structures. The etiology of TMJ disorders remains unclear and is believed to be multifactorial. TMJ disorders are often divided into two main categories: articular disorders (e.g., ankylosis, congenital or developmental disorders, disc derangement disorders, fractures, inflammatory disorders, osteoarthritis, joint dislocation) and masticatory muscle disorders (e.g., myofascial pain, myofibrotic contracture, myospasm, neoplasia).

There are no generally accepted criteria for diagnosing TMJ disorders. It is often a diagnosis of exclusion and involves physical examination, patient interview, and dental record review. Diagnostic testing and radiologic imaging is generally only recommended for patients with severe and chronic symptoms.

Symptoms attributed to TMJ dysfunction are varied and include but are not limited to clicking sounds in the jaw; headaches; closing or locking of the jaw due to muscle spasms (trismus) or displaced disc; pain in the ears, neck, arms, and spine; tinnitus; and bruxism (clenching or grinding of the teeth).

For many patients, symptoms of TMJ dysfunction are short-term and self-limiting. Conservative treatments, such as eating soft foods, rest, heat, ice, and avoiding extreme jaw movements, and anti-inflammatory medication, are recommended before consideration of more invasive and/or permanent therapies, such as surgery.

Note: Low-level laser therapy for TMJ is addressed in policy No. 2.01.56 (Low-Level Laser Therapy). (See Related Policies)

Regulatory Status

At least 1 joint vibration analysis device has received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In February 2009, the BioEMG III Joint Vibration Analysis device (BioResearch Associates, Brown Deer, WI) was cleared for marketing by FDA through the 510(k) process. The intended use of the device is to record and display sounds and vibrations from the TMJ and to aid clinicians in the analysis of joint sound and vibrations. FDA Product Code: KZM.


Medical policies are systematically developed guidelines that serve as a resource for Company staff when determining coverage for specific medical procedures, drugs or devices. Coverage for medical services is subject to the limits and conditions of the member benefit plan. Members and their providers should consult the member benefit booklet or contact a customer service representative to determine whether there are any benefit limitations applicable to this service or supply. This medical policy does not apply to Medicare Advantage.

Benefit Application

Refer to the member contract language for benefit determination on the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ dysfunction.

Bruxism Symptoms

Bruxism is a common symptom of tension, which may lead to symptoms suggestive of TMJ syndrome. However, note that treatment for bruxism symptoms alone is generally applied to a dental benefit, if one is available.

Contract limitations for physical therapy may be applicable to TMJ treatment.

Prognathism (protruding jaw), micrognathism (small lower jaw), or apertognathism (open bite) may be associated with TMJ dysfunction in some individuals.

Claims may be received for the treatment of TMJ dysfunction with, but not limited to, the following diagnoses/symptoms:

  • Asymmetrical motor neuropathy
  • Cephalgia
  • Cervicalgia
  • Cranial-cervical syndrome
  • Localized myospasm
  • Musculoskeletal dysfunction
  • Myalgia/myositis
  • Myofacial pain/dysfunction syndrome
  • Neural entrapment


Literature Review

An initial literature search with the MEDLINE database was performed through March 1995. The policy was updated regularly; the most recent literature review was through May 5, 2014. Recent literature searches have concentrated on identifying systematic reviews and meta-analyses. For treatment of temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders, the focus has been on studies that compared novel treatments with conservative interventions and/or placebo controls (rather than no-treatment control groups) and that reported pain reduction and/or functional outcomes, e.g., jaw movement.

Diagnosis of TMJ dysfunction

Several systematic reviews of the literature on specific techniques for diagnosing TMJ were identified and are described next.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

A systematic review on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) was published in 2009 by Koh et al. and included 23 studies. (1) Eight of the 23 studies found a relationship between a clinical and MRI diagnosis. The authors found substantial variability in study design, methods of clinical examination, and diagnostic criteria and therefore could not pool study findings. The Koh et al. review concluded that there is no clear evidence of a relationship between clinical and MRI diagnosis, and findings and additional studies using improved methodologies are needed.


A 2009 systematic review identified 20 studies evaluating ultrasound for diagnosing TMJ disorders; all studies evaluated disc displacement and several additionally considered osteoarthrosis and/or joint effusion. (2) The reported sensitivity of ultrasound to detect disc displacement, compared with the reference standard (MRI in most studies), ranged from 31% to 100%, and the specificity ranged from 30% to 100%. The investigators stated that, even when changes in ultrasound technology over time were taken into consideration, study findings were contradictory. They noted unexplained differences between studies conducted by the same group of researchers. The authors concluded that additional progress needs to be made in standardizing ultrasound assessment of the TMJ joint before this can be considered an accurate tool for diagnosing TMJ disorders.

Surface Electromyography

The authors of a 2006 systematic review on surface electromyography found a lack of literature on the accuracy of this method of diagnosis, compared with a criterion standard (i.e., comprehensive clinical examination and history-taking). (3) They concluded that there is insufficient evidence that electromyography can accurately separate people with facial pain from those without pain but that the technique may be useful in a research setting.

Joint Vibration Analysis

In 2013, Sharma et al. published a systematic review of literature on joint vibration analysis for diagnosis of TMJ disorders. (4) The authors identified 15 studies that evaluated the reliability and/or diagnostic accuracy of joint vibration analysis compared with a reference standard. Methodologic limitations were identified in all the studies. These limitations included the absence of well-defined diagnostic criteria, use of a non-validated system for classifying disease progression, variability within studies in the reference standard, and lack of blinding. In the 14 studies reporting on diagnostic accuracy, there was a wide range of reported values, with sensitivity ranging from 50% to 100% and specificity ranging from 59% to 100%.

Treatment of TMJ dysfunction

A 2010 article by List and Axelsson was a review of systematic reviews on treatments for TMJ dysfunction published through August 2009. (5) The authors identified 30 reviews; there were 23 qualitative systematic reviews and 7 meta-analyses. Eighteen of the systematic reviews included only randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 3 included case-control studies, and 9 included a mixture of RCTs and case series. There was inconsistency in how TMJ disorders were defined in the primary studies and systematic reviews, and several of the reviews addressed the related diagnoses of bruxism, disc replacements, and myofascial pain. Twenty-nine of the systematic reviews had pain intensity or pain reduction as the primary outcome measure, and 25 reported clinical outcome measures such as jaw movement or jaw tenderness on palpation. The authors divided the treatments into 5 categories (some studies were included in more than 1 category). These categories and the main findings are as follows:

  • Occlusal appliances, occlusal adjustment, and orthodontic treatment (10 articles): six systematic reviews did not find significant benefit compared with other treatments, 4 found no benefit compared with a placebo device, and 3 found that occlusal therapy was better than no treatment.
  • Physical therapy including acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), exercise and mobilization (8 articles): 4 reviews found no significant benefit of acupuncture over other treatments, 1 found no difference between acupuncture and placebo treatment, and 3 found that acupuncture was better than no treatment.
  • Pharmacologic treatment (7 articles): treatments found to be superior to placebo were analgesics (2 reviews), clonazepam or diazepam (3 reviews), antidepressants (4 reviews) and hyaluronate (1 review). The last review also found hyaluronate and corticosteroids to have a similar effect.
  • Maxillofacial surgery (4 articles): 3 reviews evaluated surgery for patients with disc displacements and the fourth addressed orthognathic surgery in patients with TMJ disorder. Reviews of surgical treatments generally included lower level evidence, e.g., case series, and did not always compare surgery with a control condition. One systematic review found a similar effect of arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and physical therapy.
  • Behavioral therapy and multimodal treatments (6 articles): 2 reviews found biofeedback to be better than active control or no treatment, 1 review found a combination of biofeedback and cognitive-behavioral therapy to be better than no treatment, and 2 found a combination of biofeedback and relaxation to be better than no treatment. One review found that the effects of biofeedback and relaxation were similar.

Overall, the authors concluded that there is insufficient evidence that electrophysical modalities and surgery are effective for treating TMJ dysfunction. They found some evidence that occlusal appliances, acupuncture, behavioral therapy, jaw exercise, postural training, and some medications can be effective in reducing pain for patients with TMJ disorders. However, the authors note that most of the systematic reviews they examined included primary studies with considerable variation in methodologic quality, and thus, it is not possible to make definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of any of the treatments.

Representative systematic reviews and meta-analyses on specific treatments for TMJ disorders are summarized next.

Intraoral Appliances/Devices

A 2010 systematic review searched for RCTs on intraoral treatment of TMJ disorders and identified 47 publications on 44 trials. (6) Intraoral appliances included soft and hard stabilization appliances, anterior positioning appliances, anterior bite appliances, and soft resilient appliances. Studies compared 2 types of devices or compared one device with a different treatment, e.g., acupuncture or biofeedback. None of the studies evaluated use of one device during the day and a different device during the night. The primary outcome of the meta-analysis was pain. Pain was measured differently in the studies, and the authors defined a successful outcome as at least a 50% reduction in pain on a self-report scale or at least an “improved” status when pain was measured by subjective report of status. Ten RCTs were included in a meta-analysis; the others were excluded because they did not measure pain, there were not at least 2 studies using similar devices or control groups, or data were not usable in a pooled analysis. A pooled analysis of 7 RCTs with 385 patients evaluating hard stabilization appliances and using palatal non-occluding appliances as a control found a significantly greater reduction in pain with hard appliances (odds ratio [OR], 2.45; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.56 to 3.86; p<0.001). A pooled analysis of 3 studies with 216 patients did not find a significant effect of hard appliances compared with a no-treatment control group (OR=2.14; 95% CI: 0.80 to 5.75; p=0.12) (p=0.86).

Stabilization Splints

In 2012, Ebrahim et al. identified 11 RCTs comparing splint therapy for TMJ with minimal or no therapy. (7) Nine of the 11 studies used stabilization splints, 1 used soft splints and 1 used an anterior repositioning appliance. The authors used the GRADE system to rate study quality. Nine studies did not report whether allocation was concealed, and 6 studies did not report masking of outcome assessors. Length of follow-up in the studies ranged from 6 to 52 weeks. A pooled analysis of study findings found that splint therapy was significantly associated with a reduction in reported pain compared with minimal or no intervention (standardized mean difference [SMD], -0.93; 95% CI: -1.33 to -0.53). Using a visual analog scale (VAS) to measure pain, splint therapy was associated with an 11.5 mm lower mean VAS score (95% CI: -16.5 to -6.6 mm). There were not statistically significant differences between groups in quality of life or depression scores. An earlier meta-analysis by Al-Ani et al., published in 2004, identified 12 RCTs that compared stabilization splint therapy for TMJ dysfunction with a control intervention. (8) (The control group was not limited to minimal or no intervention as in the Ebrahim review, previously described). There was wide variability in the comparison interventions and no standardization of outcomes; thus, results of the studies were not pooled.

Orthodontic Services

A 2010 Cochrane review by Luther et al. did not identify any RCTs evaluating orthodontic treatment for treating TMJ disorders and thus concluded that there is insufficient evidence on the efficacy of orthodontics. (9) They defined orthodontic treatment as appliances that would induce stable tooth movement for a sufficient period of time to bring about permanent change in tooth position.


A 2011 meta-analysis identified 7 sham-controlled RCTs on acupuncture for treating TMJ disorders. (10) The studies included a total of 141 patients. Sample sizes of individual studies ranged from 7 to 28. Four studies used a single acupuncture session, and the other 3 used 6 to 12 sessions. All 7 studies reported change in pain intensity as assessed by VAS. In 6 of the studies, pain intensity was measured immediately after treatment, the 7th measured pain after 16 weeks. A pooled analysis of findings from 5 studies (n=107) found a statistically significant improvement in pain intensity, as measured by VAS. The pooled weighted mean difference (WMD) in pain intensity was -13.63 (95% CI: -21.16 to -6.10; p<0.001). In a sub-group analysis, a pooled analysis of 4 studies (n=89) found acupuncture to be superior to a non-penetrating sham acupuncture, WMD: -13.73; 95% CI: -21.78 to -5.67; p<0.001). A pooled analysis of 2 studies (n=18) did not find a significant difference in efficacy between acupuncture and a penetrating sham acupuncture (WMD= -12.95; 95% CI: -34.05 to 8.15; p=0.23). The latter analysis may have been underpowered. The authors noted that previous studies have found that a 24.2-mm change in pain assessed by a 100-mm VAS represents a clinically significant difference and that only 2 of the included studies had a change of 24.2 mm or more. The evidence on acupuncture is limited by the small number of studies, small sample sizes, and, in most studies, assessment of effectiveness only immediately post-treatment.

Behavioral Therapy/Psychosocial Interventions

In 2011, the Cochrane collaboration published a systematic review of psychosocial interventions for managing chronic orofacial pain. (11) The review included 15 RCTs on TMJ disorders. However, only 9 of the trials had data that were suitable for pooling; the others were excluded due to study design and/or because they only reported data graphically. The 9 studies had a high degree of heterogeneity e.g., used different interventions, reported different outcomes or outcomes over different time periods. The interventions addressed in the studies included cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) alone (4 studies), biofeedback alone (2 studies), combination of CBT and biofeedback (2 studies), and physical self-regulation (1 study). Short-term follow-up was defined as 3 months or less, and long-term as more than 3 months. Due to heterogeneity among studies, an overall pooled analysis of data from the 7 studies on short-term pain could not be performed. The investigators were able to pool data from the 2 studies on combined CBT and biofeedback compared with usual care; the analysis found a statistically significant difference favoring usual care (SMD=0.46; 95% CI, 0.02 to 0.90). A pooled analysis of the 2 studies on biofeedback alone did not find a significant benefit of the intervention (SMD=-0.41; 95% CI: -1.06 to 0.25). In a pooled analysis of data from the 7 studies on long-term change in pain, there was a statistically significant difference in favor of psychosocial interventions compared to control interventions (SMD: -0.34; 95% CI: -0.50 to -0.18). Pooled analyses of 4 studies on CBT alone and 3 studies on CBT plus biofeedback also significantly favored the group receiving the psychosocial intervention. Only one study each reported long-term pain with biofeedback alone and with physical self-regulation. A more recent systematic review was published in 2013, but the authors did not pool study findings due to heterogeneity among interventions and study designs.(12)


A Cochrane review by Guo et al., last updated in 2009, identified 2 RCTs with a total of 81 patients that evaluated the effectiveness of arthrocentesis and lavage for the treatment of TMJ dysfunction compared with arthroscopy. (13) Data were pooled only for the outcome maximum incisal opening. A meta-analysis of the 2 trials found a statistically significant difference between the interventions for this outcome with a WMD of -5.28 (95% CI: -7.10 to -3.46) in favor of arthroscopy.

In a 2013 systematic review, Vos et al. identified 3 RCTs with a total of 222 patients comparing the efficacy of lavage of the TMJ (i.e., arthrocentesis or arthroscopy) with non-surgical TMJ treatment. (14) Although they assessed the quality of the studies to be adequate, only 1 study stated that allocation to treatment group was concealed, and 2 studies did not explicitly state that An intention-to-treat analysis was used. The 2 primary outcomes considered were change in pain and maximal mouth opening (MMO) at 6 months compared with baseline. Pain was measured by VAS. Pooled analysis of data from the 3 trials found a statistically significant reduction in pain at 6 months with lavage versus non-surgical therapy (SMD=-1.07; 95% CI: -1.38 to -0.76). There was not a statistically significant difference in the efficacy of the 2 treatments for the other outcome variable, MMO (SMD=-0.05; 95% CI: -0.33 to 0.23).

Hyaluronic Acid

There are several systematic reviews of studies on hyaluronic acid for treating TMJ disorders. (15-17) Only one of the systematic reviews limited its inclusion criteria to RCTs and pooled study findings. This was a Cochrane review by Shi et al., published in 2003. (17) The Shi review included RCTs comparing the effect of at least one hyaluronic acid injection alone or in combination with other active treatments with placebo or glucocorticoid injections alone or in combination with the same active treatment group. A total of 7 studies met inclusion criteria; 3 studies compared hyaluronic acid and placebo, 3 studies compared hyaluronic acid and glucocorticoids, and 2 studies compared hyaluronic acid plus arthroscopy or arthrocentesis with arthroscopy or arthrocentesis alone. (One study included 3 arms and was included in the first 2 comparisons.) Five of the 7 studies included fewer than 50 participants.

Outcomes were categorized as symptoms, which reflected subjective feeling and the judgment of the patients, and clinical signs, which reflected objective judgment of the observer. A meta-analysis of 2 trials did not find a statistically significant difference between hyaluronic acid and placebo on short-term (<3 months) improvement in symptoms (risk ratio [RR], 1.24; 95% CI: 0.72 to 2.14). Similarly, a pooled analysis of 3 trials did not find a significant difference between hyaluronic acid and placebo on short-term improvement of clinical signs (RR=1.69; 95% CI: 0.80 to 3.57). However, a pooled analysis of 2 studies found a statistically significant between-group difference in long-term effect on clinical signs (RR=1.71; 95% CI: 1.05 to 2.77) (long-term was defined as 3 months). For the comparison between hyaluronic acid and glucocorticoids, only short-term data were available for pooling. There were no significant differences between groups on short-term improvement in symptoms (2 studies; RR=0.99; 95% CI: 0.84 to 1.17) or short-term improvement in clinical signs (3 studies; RR=0.91; 95% CI: 0.66 to 1.25). Data were not pooled for studies on combination treatment (hyaluronic acid plus arthroscopy or arthrocentesis). The investigators concluded that there is insufficient consistent evidence to draw conclusions on the use of hyaluronate for treating patients with TMJ disorders.

Most of the published RCTs evaluating hyaluronic acid for treating TMJ disorders had small sample sizes, short follow-up times, and/or lack of blinding. Representative RCTs published through May 2012 are described next. RCTs with larger sample sizes and stronger methodology were selected for description.

A 2012 study by Manfredini et al. in Italy randomized 72 patients with TMJ dysfunction to one of 6 treatment groups: (1) single-session arthrocentesis alone; (2) single-session arthrocentesis plus corticosteroid; (3) single-session arthrocentesis plus low-molecular weight hyaluronic acid; (4) single-session arthrocentesis plus high-molecular weight hyaluronic acid; (5) 5 weekly 2-needle arthrocenteses plus low-molecular weight hyaluronic acid; or (6) 5 weekly single-needle arthrocenteses plus low-molecular weight hyaluronic acid. (18) A total of 60 of 72 (83%) participants completed the study, between 9 and 12 patients per treatment group. In a per protocol analysis, there were no significant differences among groups on any of the outcome variables at the 3-month follow-up. For example, the percentage change in pain (SD) at rest ranged from -29.1% (62.9%) in the group receiving 5 weekly single-needle arthrocenteses plus low-molecular weight hyaluronic acid to -38.4% (56.5%) in the group receiving a single session of arthrocentesis alone. Limitations of the study include the small number of patients in each treatment group and the substantial number of dropouts in absence of an intention-to-treat analysis.

A 2007 study by Bjorland et al. in Norway published a double-blind RCT that included 40 patients with osteoarthritis of the TMJ. (19) Patients received 2 injections, 14 days apart, of either sodium hyaluronate or corticosteroids. Pain was assessed using VAS from 0 to 100. Patients were followed for 6 months (assessed at 14 days, 1 month, and 6 months). There was a statistically significant reduction in pain within each group at all of the follow-up points. At the 6 -month follow-up, pain intensity (mean VAS score [SD]) was 14 (16) in the hyaluronic acid group and 31 (32) in the corticosteroid group; the difference was statistically significant (p<0.001). The number of patients who were pain-free at 6 months was 7 of 20 (35%) in the hyaluronic acid group and 6 of 20 (30%) in the corticosteroid group (p value not reported).

Bertolami et al. published a double-blind placebo-controlled trial in 1993 which included 121 TMJ patients.(20) Patients needed to have a confirmed diagnosis of degenerative joint disease (DJD), reducing displaced disc (DDR) or non-reducing displaced disc (DDN), to have failed other non-surgical treatments, and to have severe dysfunction. Patients received a single injection of sodium hyaluronate or saline and were followed for 6 months. A total of 80 patients were randomized to the hyaluronate group and 41 to the placebo group. This included a total of 57 patients in the DJD group, 50 patients in the DDR group, and 14 patients in the DDN group. Fourteen of 121 patients (12%) were excluded from the analysis because they were found not to meet eligibility criteria. No significant differences in outcomes were seen for the DJD group. In the DDN group, there were significant between-group differences through 1 month, favoring the hyaluronic acid group. The number of patients in the DDN group who completed follow-up after 1 month was insufficient to draw meaningful conclusions about efficacy. In the DDR group, there were no statistically significant differences between groups in any outcome at 1 or 2 months. At 3 and 6 months, 2 of 7 reported outcomes were significantly better in the hyaluronic acid group compared with the placebo group. At 5 months, 5 of 7 reported outcomes were significantly better in the hyaluronic acid group. The 7 outcomes included 3 measures of dysfunction, 2 measures of patient perception of improvement, 2 measures of change in noise. The most consistent between-group differences in the DDR group were for the 2 measures of patient perception of improvement and one of the noise variables. There were fewer between-group differences on dysfunction measures.


The evidence on diagnosis of TMJ dysfunction supports the use of several diagnostic modalities, as listed in the policy statement. The evidence on treatment of TMJ dysfunction includes a large number of RCTs evaluating different treatment modalities, and systematic reviews of these RCTs. Based on this evidence and clinical guidelines, certain treatment modalities may be considered medically necessary, as listed in the policy statements and other treatments are considered investigational.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

American Association for Dental Research: A policy statement, revised in 2010, recommends the following for the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders(21):

“It is recommended that the differential diagnosis of TMDs or related orofacial pain conditions should be based primarily on information obtained from the patient's history, clinical examination, and when indicated, TMJ radiology or other imaging procedures. The choice of adjunctive diagnostic procedures should be based upon published, peer-reviewed data showing diagnostic efficacy and safety. However, the consensus of recent scientific literature about currently available technological diagnostic devices for TMDs is that except for various imaging modalities, none of them shows the sensitivity and specificity required to separate normal subjects from TMD patients or to distinguish among TMD subgroups…”

“It is strongly recommended that, unless there are specific and justifiable indications to the contrary, treatment of TMD patients initially should be based on the use of conservative, reversible and evidence-based therapeutic modalities. Studies of the natural history of many TMDs suggest that they tend to improve or resolve over time. While no specific therapies have been proven to be uniformly effective, many of the conservative modalities have proven to be at least as effective in providing symptomatic relief as most forms of invasive treatment...”

American Society of Temporomandibular Joint Surgeons

Consensus clinical guidelines, published in 2001, focus on TMJ associated with internal derangement and osteoarthritis. (22) For diagnosis of this type of TMJ dysfunction, a detailed history and, when indicated, general physical examination are recommended. Imaging of the TMJ and associated structures is also recommended. Options for basic radiography to provide information on temporal bone and condylar morphology include use of plain films, panoramic films, and tomograms. Also recommended is imaging of the disc and associated soft tissue with MRI or arthrography. Other diagnostic procedures that may be indicated include computed tomography, MRI, arthrography (for selected cases) and isotope bone scans.

Non-surgical treatment should be considered first for all symptomatic patients with this condition. Recommended treatment options include change in diet, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, maxillomandibular appliances, physical therapy, injections of corticosteroids or botulinum toxin, and behavior modification. If adequate symptom relief does not occur within 2 to 3 weeks, surgical consultation is advised. The guideline states that the following surgical procedures are considered to be accepted and effective for patients with TMJ associated with internal derangement/osteoarthritis:

  • Arthrocentesis
  • Arthroscopy
  • Condylotomy Arthrotomy (prosthetic joint replacement may be indicated in selected patients who have severe joint degeneration, destruction, or ankylosis)
  • Coronoidotomy/coronoidectomy
  • Styloidectomy

American Dental Association

Selected statements from their dental practice parameters for TMJ, revised in 1997, (23) are:

  • The key element in the design of this set of parameters for temporomandibular (TM) disorders is the professional judgment of the attending dentist, for a specific patient, at a specific time.
  • Initially the dentist should select the least invasive and most reversible therapy that may ameliorate the patient’s pain and/or functional impairment.
  • Any treatment performed should be with the concurrence of the patient and the dentist…
  • The dentist should evaluate the effectiveness of initial therapy prior to considering more invasive and/or irreversible therapy.
  • The dentist should counsel the patient that TM disorders are often managed, rather than resolved, and that symptoms of TM disorders may persist, change, or recur intermittently.
  • The patient should be informed that the success of treatment is often dependent upon patient compliance with prescribed treatment and recommendations for behavioral modifications. Lack of compliance should be recorded.
  • When articular derangement and/or condylar dislocation has been determined to be the etiology of the patient’s pain and/or functional impairment, manual manipulation of the mandible may be performed by the dentist.
  • Oral orthotics (guards/splints) may be used by the dentist to enhance diagnosis, facilitate treatment or reduce symptoms.
  • The dentist should periodically evaluate oral orthotics (guards/splints) for their effectiveness, appropriateness and possible risks associated with continued use.
  • Before restorative and/or occlusal therapy is performed, the dentist should attempt to reduce, through the use of reversible modalities, the neuromuscular, myofascial and temporomandibular joint symptoms.
  • The dentist may replace teeth, alter tooth morphology and/or position by modifying occluding, articulating, adjacent or approximating surfaces, and by placing or replacing restorations (prostheses) to facilitate treatment.
  • Transitional or provisional restorations (prostheses) may be utilized by the dentist to facilitate treatment.
  • Intracapsular and/or intramuscular injection, and/or arthrocentesis may be performed for diagnostic and/or therapeutic purposes.
  • Orthodontic therapy may be utilized to facilitate treatment.
  • Orthognathic surgery may be performed to facilitate treatment.
  • When internal derangement or pathosis has been determined to be the cause of the patient’s pain and/or functional impairment, arthroscopic or open resective or reconstructive surgical procedures may be performed by the dentist.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

TMJ dysfunction is not a preventive service.

Medicare National Coverage

There is no national coverage determination (NCD). In the absence of an NCD, coverage decisions are left to the discretion of local Medicare carriers.


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  6. Fricton J, Look JO, Wright E et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials evaluating intraoral orthopedic appliances for temporomandibular disorders. J Orofac Pain 2010; 24(3):237-54.
  7. Ebrahim S, Montoya L, Busse JW et al. The effectiveness of splint therapy in patients with temporomandibular disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Dent Assoc 2012; 143(8):847-57.
  8. Al-Ani MZ, Davies SJ, Gray RJ et al. Stabilisation splint therapy for temporomandibular pain dysfunction syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004; (1):CD002778.
  9. Luther F, Layton S, McDonald F. Orthodontics for treating temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2010; (7):CD006541.
  10. Jung A, Shin BC, Lee MS et al. Acupuncture for treating temporomandibular joint disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, sham-controlled trials. J Dent 2011; 39(5):341-50.
  11. Aggarwal VR, Lovell K, Peters S et al. Psychosocial interventions for the management of chronic orofacial pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011; (11):CD008456.
  12. de Freitas RF, Ferreira MA, Barbosa GA et al. Counselling and self-management therapies for temporomandibular disorders: a systematic review. J Oral Rehabil 2013; 40(11):864-74.
  13. Guo C, Shi Z, Revington P. Arthrocentesis and lavage for treating temporomandibular joint disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2009; (4):CD004973.
  14. Vos LM, Huddleston Slater JJ, Stegenga B. Lavage therapy versus nonsurgical therapy for the treatment of arthralgia of the temporomandibular joint: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Orofac Pain 2013; 27(2):171-9.
  15. Manfredini D, Piccotti F, Guarda-Nardini L. Hyaluronic acid in the treatment of TMJ disorders: a systematic review of the literature. Cranio 2010; 28(3):166-76.
  16. Machado E, Bonotto D, Cunali PA. Intra-articular injections with corticosteroids and sodium hyaluronate for treating temporomandibular joint disorders: a systematic review. Dental Press J Orthod 2013; 18(5):128-33.
  17. Shi Z, Guo C, Awad M. Hyaluronate for temporomandibular joint disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003; (1):CD002970.
  18. Manfredini D, Rancitelli D, Ferronato G et al. Arthrocentesis with or without additional drugs in temporomandibular joint inflammatory-degenerative disease: comparison of six treatment protocols*. J Oral Rehabil 2012; 39(4):245-51.
  19. Bjornland T, Gjaerum AA, Moystad A. Osteoarthritis of the temporomandibular joint: an evaluation of the effects and complications of corticosteroid injection compared with injection with sodium hyaluronate. J Oral Rehabil 2007; 34(8):583-9.
  20. Bertolami CN, Gay T, Clark GT et al. Use of sodium hyaluronate in treating temporomandibular joint disorders: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Oral Maxillofac Surg 1993; 51(3):232-42.
  21. American Association for Dental Research (AADR). Policy Statement: Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ). Available online at: Last accessed August, 2014.
  22. American Society of Temporomandibular Joint Surgeons. Guidelines for diagnosis and management of disorders involving the temporomandibular joint and related musculoskeletal structures. Available online at: Last accessed August 2014.
  23. American Dental Association. Temporomandibular (Craniomandibular) Disorders. Practice Parameters. Revised 1997. Available online at: Last accessed August, 2014.







Arthrocentesis, aspiration and/or injection; intermediate joint or bursa (e.g., temporomandibular, acromioclavicular, wrist, elbow or ankle, olecranon bursa)



Arthrotomy, temporomandibular joint



Complete oral appliance therapy



Unlisted maxillofacial prosthetic procedure



Application of interdental fixation device for conditions other than fracture or dislocation, include removal



Injection procedure for temporomandibular joint arthrography



Condylectomy, temporomandibular joint



Menisectomy, partial/complete , temporomandibular joint (separate procedure)



Manipulation of temporomandibular joint(s) (TMJ), therapeutic, requiring an anesthesia service (i.e., general or monitored anesthesia care)



Arthroplasty, temporomandibular joint, with or without autograft (includes obtaining graft)



With allograft



With prosthetic joint replacement



Arthroscopy, temporomandibular joint, diagnostic, with or without synovial biopsy (separate procedure)



Arthroscopy, temporomandibular joint, surgical



Radiologic exam, temporomandibular joint, open and closed mouth; unilateral






Temporomandibular joint arthrography, radiological supervision and interpretation



MRI (e.g., proton)of temporomandibular joint(s)



Cephalogram, orthodontic






Application of a modality to one or more areas; hot or cold packs



Diathermy (e.g., microwave)




ICD-9 Procedure


Open reduction of temporomandibular dislocation



Other manipulation of temporomandibular joint






Other dental x-ray (orthodontic cephalogram)



Other x-ray of facial bones



MRI of other and unspecified sites



Other heat therapy



Other physical therapy

ICD-9 Diagnosis


Temporomandibular joint disorders, unspecified



Arthralgia of temporomandibular joint



Other specified temporomandibular joint disorders



Other dentofacial anomalies



Other specified dentofacial anomalies



Other specified diseases of the jaw(s)



Unspecified disease of the jaws



Osteoarthrosis, unspecified whether generalized or localized, site unspecified



Displacement of thoracic or lumbar Intervertebral disc without myelopathy



Displacement of intervertebral disc, site unspecified, without myelopathy



Injury, other and unspecified, head (jaw), face and neck

(effective 10/01/15)

M26.00 - M26.09

Major anomalies of jaw size


M26.10 - M26.19

Anomalies of jaw-cranial base relationship


M26.50 - M26.59

Dentofacial functional abnormalities


M26.60 - M26.69

Temporomandibular joint disorders


S03.0xxA - S03.0xxS

Dislocation of jaw code range


S03.4xxA – S03.4xxS

Sprain of jaw code range

(effective 10/01/15)

0R9C3ZZ, 0R9D3ZZ

Drainage, temporomandibular joint, percutaneous, no device, code list



Excision, temporomandibular joint, open, no device, code list



Excision, temporomandibular joint, percutaneous endoscopic, no device, code list



Inspection, temporomandibular joint, percutaneous endoscopic, no device, code list



Repair, temporomandibular joint, open, no device, code list



Repair, temporomandibular joint, percutaneous endoscopic, no device, code list



Repair, temporomandibular joint, external, no device, code list



Replacement, temporomandibular joint, open, synthetic substitute, code list



Reposition, temporomandibular joint, external, no device, code list



Plain radiography, temporomandibular joint(s), no contrast, code list


BN070ZZ, BN071ZZ,
BN090ZZ, BN091ZZ,

Plain radiography, temporomandibular joint(s), with contrast, code list



Fluoroscopy, temporomandibular joint, no contrast, code list



Magnetic resonance imaging, temporomandibular joints, with or without contrast, code list


F07J6BZ, F07J6CZ,
F07J6DZ, F07J6EZ,
F07J6FZ, F07J6GZ,
F07J6HZ, F07J6UZ,
F07J6YZ, F07J6ZZ

Motor treatment, musculoskeletal system – head and neck, therapeutic exercise, code list



Motor treatment, musculoskeletal system – head and neck, manual therapy techniques


F08J5BZ, F08J5CZ,
F08J5DZ, F08J5EZ,
F08J5FZ, F08J5UZ,
F08J5YZ, F08J5ZZ

Activities of daily living treatment, musculoskeletal system – head and neck, wound management, code list



Occlusal orthotic device



Unspecified TMD therapy, by report



Unspecified oral surgery procedure



Occlusal guard


J7321 – J7326

Hyaluronan preparations for intra-articular injection, code range



Mandibular orthopedic repositioning device



Application of a modality (requiring constant provider attendance) to one or more areas; low-level laser; each 15 minutes

Type of Service



Place of Service

Outpatient /

Physician’s or Dentist’s Office








Add to Medicine Section - New Policy


Replace policy - Policy reviewed without literature review; new review date only


Replace policy - Policy reviewed without literature review, new review date only.


Codes Updated - No other changes.


Update Scope and Disclaimer - No other changes.


Replace Policy - Policy updated with literature review. No change in policy statement.


Cross Reference Update - No other changes.


Replace Policy - Policy reviewed by practicing dental consultant. Updated with literature search. No change in policy statement. Status changed from AR to BC.


Replace Policy - Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statement. References added.


Cross Reference Update - No other changes.


Replace Policy - Policy updated with literature review through April 2010; references 1 – 10 added. Acupuncture added to investigational indications.


Replace Policy – Policy updated with literature review through May 2011. References 2, 5-7 added; other references renumbered or removed. Changes to investigational diagnostic procedures statement: ultrasound statement clarified and arthroscopy of the TMJ for purely diagnostic purposes moved to this policy statement.


Update title of Related Policy 2.01.64.


Replace policy. Policy updated with literature review through May 2012. References 5, 6, 14-17 added; other references renumbered or removed. Low-level laser therapy and hyaluronic acid added as investigational. HCPCS codes J7321 – J7326 and S8948 added to the policy.


Replace policy. Policy has added joint vibration analysis for diagnosis of TMJ is considered investigational. Low level laser removed from nonsurgical treatments considered investigational due to policy 2.01.56 overlap. Nonsurgical treatment using an intraoral prosthetic device typographical error of “reversible” changed to “removable”. All lists in the policy section are alphabetized. Rationale updated based on a literature review through May 2013. References 4,7,13, 18 added; others renumbered/removed. Policy statement changed as noted. ICD-9 Diagnosis codes 80.21 and 80.51 removed from the policy as they do not relate.


Coding Update. Codes 76.5, 76.93, and 87.13 were removed per ICD-10 mapping project; these codes are not utilized for adjudication of policy.


Update Related Policies. Add 9.02.501.


Update Related Policies. Remove 2.01.30 and 2.01.56 as they were archived.


Annual Review. Policy updated with literature review through May 5, 2014. References 12 and 15-16 added. Policy statements unchanged. Clarification added to Guidelines and Benefit Application regarding symptoms of bruxism alone and contract benefits.


Update Related Policies. Add 2.01.534.

Disclaimer: This medical policy is a guide in evaluating the medical necessity of a particular service or treatment. The Company adopts policies after careful review of published peer-reviewed scientific literature, national guidelines and local standards of practice. Since medical technology is constantly changing, the Company reserves the right to review and update policies as appropriate. Member contracts differ in their benefits. Always consult the member benefit booklet or contact a member service representative to determine coverage for a specific medical service or supply. CPT codes, descriptions and materials are copyrighted by the American Medical Association (AMA).
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