What is Orofacial Pain and How is it Treated?

What is Orofacial Pain?

Orofacial pain refers to a variety of unpleasant physical sensations involving the muscles, bones or joints of the face and mouth. Common symptoms of orofacial pain include, but are not limited to, a dull or sharp pain around or behind the eyes, a nearly constant ache deep in the jaw; clicking or locking of the jaw; persistent headaches and pain while chewing, speaking or swallowing. Any of these symptoms, whether present alone or in conjunction with others, are sufficient cause for concern and should be evaluated by a licensed medical/dental professional.

What are the Causes of Orofacial Pain?

There are many known causes of orofacial pain. The following are some of the most commonly cited of those causes:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Involuntary muscle spasms in the head, jaw or neck
  • Complications following certain surgeries
  • Missing teeth
  • Uneven bite
  • TMJ pain
  • Excessive tooth decay or gum disease, resulting in bone loss
  • Injury to the face or jaw
  • Bruxism (grinding or clenching of the teeth)

Orofacial pain includes a broad range of categories within itself, each of which includes an array of complex subcategories that must be examined before a definite diagnosis can be made. For example, the idiopathic category includes subcategories of atypical odontalgia, a form of facial neuralgia that is recognized as an accepted clinical condition. When a patient experiences this condition, moderate to severe pain is typically felt in the maxillary molars, though nothing can be found to be wrong with the teeth or the gums. The pain may be the result of nerve problems or a deeper psychological issue, and is therefore difficult to treat.

In the musculoskeletal category, patients experience pain that arises from problems with muscles, bones and joints, particularly those involved in the mastication process. Spasms and involuntary grinding cause intense discomfort day and night while advanced TMJ sufferers endure unending pain and often find their jaws locked in either an open or closed position.

How is Orofacial Pain Treated?

Because orofacial pain is so varied in the ways that it afflicts different people, it must be evaluated and treated on a case-by-case basis. An assessment must be carried out to determine the nature of the individual problem before a diagnosis is made. X-rays, models of the mouth and jaws and computerized analysis will all assist in formulating an effective treatment plan, all of which is explained in thorough detail to the patient prior to any initiating any procedures.

While initial pain relief is, naturally, of utmost importance in orofacial pain treatment, the correction of the underlying problem is of equal significance. Your oral surgeon will need to ensure that any issues that cause the pain are corrected in order to prevent the return of any discomfort in the future.

Orofacial pain can, over time, develop into a debilitating condition that prevents you from enjoying your daily life to its fullest. Schedule your consultation today to speak to a professional oral and maxillofacial surgeon and begin your path to a freer, pain-free life.

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