BACKGROUND: The authors conducted a survey to characterize the strategies used by general dentists to manage pain related to temporomandibular muscle and joint disorders (TMJDs) and to assess the feasibility of conducting a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to determine the effectiveness of these strategies. METHODS: Dentists from three dental practice-based research networks (PBRNs) (The Dental Practice-Based Research Network, Practitioners Engaged in Applied Research and Learning Network and Northwest Practice-based REsearch Collaborative in Evidence-based DENTistry) agreed to participate in this survey. RESULTS: Of 862 dentists surveyed, 654 were general dentists who treated TMJDs; among these, 80.3 percent stated they would participate in a future RCT. Dentists treated an average of three patients with TMJD-related pain per month. Splints or mouthguards (97.6 percent), self-care (85.9 percent) and over-the-counter or prescribed medications (84.6 percent) were the treatments most frequently used. The treatments dentists preferred to compare in an RCT were splint or mouthguard therapy (35.8 percent), self-care (27.4 percent) and medication (17.0 percent). CONCLUSIONS: Most general dentists treat TMJD-related pain, and initial reversible care typically is provided. It is feasible to conduct an RCT in a dental PBRN to assess the effectiveness of splint or mouthguard therapy, self-care or medication for the initial management of painful TMJD. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: There is an opportunity to do an RCT in a dental PBRN, which could lead to the development of evidence-based treatment guidelines for the initial treatment of TMJD-related pain by primary care dentists.