Pain in the region of the mouth, jaws, face, side of head and behind the ears is broadly classed as orofacial pain. Orofacial may also include tooth pain that is not associated with decay or abscessed teeth.Dr Ian Sweeney
Orofacial pain may be associated with a specific cause or part of a disorder where pain constitutes the major presenting feature. Examples of these are; TMJ disorder (pain and dysfunction of the muscles that move the jaw and joints that connect the mandible to the skull), neuropathic pain, headaches and migraines.
The diagnosis of painful syndromes relies on interpretation of a patient’s history, review of x-rays and appropriate imaging, as well as a behavioural, social, and occupational assessment.
Treatment of orofacial pain may involve various modalities, such as direct treatment, prescribing medication, prescribing rehabilitative services, performing pain relieving procedures, counselling of patients and families, assessment by a multidisciplinary team, as well as coordination of care with other healthcare providers in order to achieve optimal treatment for a patient suffering from a painful disorder.
Common causes of orofacial pain include evrything from tooth grinding, tooth clenching cracked teeth, muscle pain from jaw muscles, muscle pain from neck muscles, and referred pain such as sinus congestion, headache and migraine as well as salivary gland blockages.
In a recent UK study, seven per cent of the interviewed population reported some degree of chronic orofacial pain and up to 15 per cent of respondents reported having TMJ disorder. While in the US, a study reported 22 per cent of the population suffered from some form of orofacial pain in the year leading up to the survey. Of these patients, 12 per cent were suffering pain of a dental origin.
Should you be experiencing pain of the face, neck or mouth area, your dentist may be able to assess the type and cause of the pain and help with the ongoing management.