Orofacial pain is described as pain experienced in any of the following sites; face, sides of head, mouth, jaws, ears or behind the eyes. In addition, orofacial pain includes aching teeth that are not decayed or in poor shape. People often describe orofacial pain as varying in intensity from mild to severe, tingling, burning or a throbbing sensation. The pain may come and go, or it may be present all the time. This of course impacts social activities and work. Facial and jaw movements often aggravate the pain. Furthermore, the pain can alternate from one side of the jaw to the other and may affect several teeth at once.
Other symptoms may include sore or aching neck muscles, difficulty chewing and talking, migraines or headaches, pain or tenderness and clicking of the jaw joint ( located in front of the ear ) sleep disorders, increased sensitivity to noise, temperature, pressure, or touch on the face or scalp.
Common causes of orofacial pain are;
- Jaw muscle pain linked to trauma, inflammation, or jaw overuse can be temporary or longer-lasting. You may experience muscle pain in the cheek region or the sides of the face above the ears or neck. A customized mouth splint and quality remedial massage can be life-changing.
- Bruxism ( excessive grinding or clenching of teeth ) often damages teeth and causes chronic facial pain including jaw joint pain and jaw muscle pain. Again awareness and a customized mouth splint will be a huge help.
- Cracked tooth syndrome- this can result from bruxism, trauma or older large fillings. Cracked teeth usually require crowns. Complex large cracks require root canal treatment or extraction.
- Trauma or disease of the gums and/or soft tissues in the mouth.
- Referred pain; this is pain from one area of the body that is felt in a different area of the body and may be some distance from the source of the pain. eg heart pain can be referred to the left shoulder or left arm and also to the teeth and jaws. Some people with heart disease notice an increase in orofacial pain when their heart is working harder eg climbing stairs.
- Sinusitis, often caused by the common cold can refer pain to in the mouth, face and teeth. This type of pain will increase when you drop your head down quickly as if to touch your toes.
- The pain associated with migraines and headaches, and also salivary gland problems can refer pain to in the face, jaw or teeth.
- Other non-dental medical conditions that may cause orofacial pain include trigeminal neuralgia ( symptoms of shooting, stabbing facial pain).
- Viral infections can also cause facial pain.
Remember that pain is also perceived as being more severe when you are fatigued, feeling depressed or anxious or have a dietary imbalance.
Realise that orofacial pain is a complex topic having different causes and therefore many different treatments.
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