The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced new grants that will support additional research into the biology of the temporomandibular joint, both in its healthy state and when affected by TMJ. The hope is that this research will support improved TMJ treatment options.

The Rationale for the Grant

NIH is offering this new grant opportunity because it realizes that effective therapies for TMJ are limited. In particular, NIH calls attention to the limits of TMJ implants, which, as we noted, are associated with a large number of adverse event reports.

NIH claims that the limits in current treatments are due to our limited understanding of the temporomandibular joint, both in its healthy state and in its diseased state. It notes the complexity of the joint, which is distinct from other joints in both its range of motion and in the severity of cyclical demands placed upon it. The severity and cyclical nature of demands means that the temporomandibular joint often requires remodeling and repair, which, again, makes it distinct.

The Goals of the Grant

The grant may actually fund a number of different studies, and the grant announcement includes description of many different areas that researchers can focus on to win awards.

Researchers can focus on many of the important bone factors in the temporomandibular joint, such as development, bone remodeling, bone loss, and replacement bone options. Muscle areas that NIH is seeking research on include development, regeneration and repair, metabolism, and aging. The grant looks for studies on the molecular and physical properties of the cartilaginous disc and its ligaments, including degradation, interaction with the surrounding capsule, and development. Blood vessel topics include understanding of blood vessel patterns, whether new development of blood vessels or branching of current blood vessels is a better approach to restore circulation, the role of oxygen shortage in muscle function, and the introduction and distribution of immune cells.

In addition, NIH is offering grants for comparisons between the temporomandibular joint and other joints in the body, as well as comprehensive modeling of the function of the joint.

We hope that this grant fulfills its stated purpose, both validating the treatments that we offer and giving us insight to continue to improve existing treatments.

In the meantime, we will continue to offer state-of-the-art TMJ treatment to all our patients. If you have been diagnosed with TMJ or fear you may have the condition, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.