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Craniofacial and shoulder asymmetry and its relationship to temporomandibular disorder: A study of 183 patients

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March 25, 2013
by Kent W. Cox, MD, PhD; Rob Klein, MD


We conducted a prospective study to ascertain the prevalence of features of craniofacial and shoulder asymmetry and to determine if they are related to temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Our study population was made up of 183 patients-105 females and 78 males, aged 8 to 92 years (mean: 53.5; median: 60) who presented to a private otolaryngologic practice in a rural retirement community in Arizona. These patients completed a questionnaire to determine their self-assessment of the their body asymmetry. Next, all patients underwent a nurse evaluation for the presence or absence of asymmetry, which was based on the relative position of the ears, lateral canthi, hemimandibles, and shoulders. All patients were then evaluated independently by a physician for the presence or absence of TMD. The most important finding of this study was that asymmetry as determined by the nurse evaluation was associated with a relative risk of TMD of 5.89 (p = 0.0001); the perception of asymmetry on the patient self-assessments was associated with a relative risk of only 1.86 (p = 0.0026). We conclude that the recognition and diagnosis of TMD is significantly enhanced by a brief evaluation by a health professional who has been trained in recognizing the signs of facial and shoulder asymmetry.

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