The acoustical characteristics of the normal and abnormal temporomandibular joint

Thomas Gay, Charles N. Bertolami, R. Bruce Donoff, David A. Keith, John P. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper describes the results of a clinical study that recorded and analyzed sounds emitted from the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) during simple function as a means for differentially diagnosing disorders of the joint. The technique is based on the principle that each different disorder of the TMJ produces a different effect on the mechanical relationship between the articulating surfaces of the joint, and that these mechanical effects can be determined by analyzing joint sounds in relation to joint movement. A total of 79 patients (101 joints) were studied; 32 (46 joints) were diagnosed as having extracapsular disorders, (primarily MPD), 27 (32 joints) were diagnosed as having a displaced disc with reduction, nine (10 joints) were diagnosed as having a displaced disc without reduction, and 11 (13 joints) were diagnosed as degenerative disease (osteoarthritis/arthrosis). In addition, 25 adults (50 joints) with normal TMJs were included as controls. The results of this study demonstrated that each specific disease of the TMJ is characterized by a unique relationship between the sounds propagated by the joint and the movement of the joint. Essentially, an extracapsular disease was characterized by acoustic quiescence during natural (as opposed to maximal) jaw movement, an internal derangement by a usually symmetrical short duration click/reciprocal click, or random click complex, depending on the subcategory of the disorder, and a degenerative disease by a long duration noise during either or both jaw opening and closing. The data further suggest that the technique serves to reflect the mechanical events (and abnormalities) that are involved in function of the diseased joint and has potential for use as a clinical diagnositic tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-407
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oral Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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