Orofacial Pain

Understanding Orofacial Pain

Orofacial pain is a chronic medical condition that affects the mouth, jaw and face. It is characterized by intense and persistent pain that can interfere with normal activities such as chewing, speaking and sleeping. Orofacial pain is often associated with headaches, toothaches, earaches, facial muscle spasms and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Common causes of orofacial pain can include: dental abscesses, jaw trauma, sinus and upper respiratory infections, medications, anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, and nerve damage.

Symptoms of Orofacial Pain

The symptoms of orofacial pain vary depending on the person and the cause of the pain. Common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Toothache
  • Facial pain
  • Jaw or jaw joint pain
  • Jaw locking or reduced range of motion
  • Earache
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sound in the jaw joint
  • Facial muscle pain or tightness
  • Tenderness of the jaw or jaw joint
  • Difficulty speaking, or eating
  • Chronic fatigue

Treatment of Orofacial Pain

Treatment for orofacial pain typically involves a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, physical and occupational therapy, and stress relief techniques. Depending on the cause of the orofacial pain, treatments may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Muscle relaxants to relieve muscle tension
  • Antidepressants to improve pain tolerance and reduce pain-related anxiety
  • Anticonvulsants to reduce nerve sensitivity¬†
  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to address underlying psychological issues
  • Biofeedback techniques to reduce muscle tension
  • Relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery
  • Jaw exercises to strengthen and relax facial muscles
  • Heat and cold therapy to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Acupuncture to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Surgical treatment of TMJ disorders

Prevention of Orofacial Pain

Proper care of the mouth, jaw and face can help prevent orofacial pain. Prevention tips include:

  • Practice good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing regularly
  • Visit your dentist every six months for a check-up and professional cleaning
  • Avoid biting the inside of your cheek or chewing on open objects
  • Avoid teeth grinding or clenching, as it puts strain on your jaw muscles and joint
  • Eat soft foods as much as possible, and avoid hard or crunchy foods
  • Avoid using your teeth as tools, such as to open bottles, tear tape etc.
  • Use a mouth guard or other protective device at night, if you suffer from teeth grinding or clenching during sleep
  • Manage stress through relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption