AIMS: The aims of this critical review were to: (i) assess the factors that differentiate acute from chronic temporomandibular disorders (TMD) pain; (ii) assess the risk factors associated with the transition from acute to chronic TMD pain; and (iii) summarize and appraise the studies. METHOD: The databases used were MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Eligible studies included articles comparing acute to chronic TMD pain, and cohort studies assessing the risk factors implicated in the transition from acute to chronic TMD pain. RESULTS: Seven articles were selected: one case-control study, three cross-sectional studies, and three cohort studies. These studies found that psychological factors were more common in chronic than acute TMD pain patients; however, these factors did not increase the transition risk in the multivariable model. Myofascial and baseline pain intensity were associated with the transition from acute to chronic TMD pain at a 6-month follow-up. Due to methodological weaknesses in the available literature, more research is required to establish the risk factors implicated in the transition from acute to chronic TMD pain. CONCLUSION: This review found some evidence that myofascial pain is associated with the transition risk from acute to chronic TMD pain at a 6-month follow-up and that pain intensity at baseline is associated with more intense TMD pain 6 months later. There is insufficient evidence to draw conclusions about the role of demographics and psychological disorders as independent risk factors.