Orofacial Pain

Orofacial pain is pain felt in any of the following areas: the mouth, jaws, face, sides of the head, ears, or behind the eyes. Orofaeial pain includes aching teeth that are not decayed or in poor repair. The intensity of orofacial pain can vary from mild to severe. It can impact on work, family and social activities. People often describe orofacial pain as a tingling, throbbing or burning sensation. The pain may come and go, or it may be virtually constant. It often changes location within the mouth and head. Pain can alternate from one side of the jaw to the other and may affect several teeth at once. Facial and jaw movements often aggravate the pain.

Other symptoms: Patients may also have one or more of the following:


Diagnosis of Orofacial Pain

Your dentist will discuss with you the most appropriate diagnostic tests for your symptoms. The shifting nature and different causes of orofacial pain may make some cases difficult to diagnose. If orofacial pain is misdiagnosed, patients may have treatments that do not relieve the symptoms and that cannot be reversed. Prolonged pain and needless treatment may be avoided if the cause of orofacial pain is correctly identified, even though this may take time.

Your dentist will take a detailed history of the pain and any other simp toms or conditions related to the pain, for example, problems of the sinuses, the
TMJ or salivary glands.

Your dentist will examine your teeth, gums and mouth. The TMJ, jaw and facial muscles will be thoroughly assessed. Once your dentist is sure the pain is not caused by tooth decay, other possible causes are evaluated. Oral and facial examination may include responses to temperature, pressure or local anaesthetic in different areas of the mouth. X-ray examinations and other tests may be needed.

Often with orofacial pain, teeth feel painful and sore but are not the cause of pain. Listen carefully to your dentist who may advise against treatment of teeth.


Common Causes of Orofacial Pain

Treatments for Orofacial Pain

The aim of treatment is to identify and correct the cause of the pain. orofacial pain has different causes and therefore different treatments. After the cause of your pain is diagnosed, your dentist will discuss the diagnosis and treatment options with you. Some of the causes of orofacial pain may require treatment by a healthcare professional other than your dentist. This may include a physician (such as a neurologist or an allergy specialist) or a specialist dentist in orofacial pain or other specialist dentist. Your dentist may also:

Pain is often perceived as being more severe when a patient has a dietary imbalance, is fatigued, or is feeling anxious, upset or depressed. For this reason, your dentist may refer you to a dietitian, social worker or counsellor.

Antidepressant or anti—anxiety drugs may be required for some patients and need to be prescribed by a medical practitioner.


More about Splint Therapy

Mouth splints look similar to mouth guards and are called night guards, bruising splints, or occlusal splints. They protect the teeth’s surfaces from further damage from tooth grinding and may relieve any pressure on the TMJ and teeth.

Mouth splints are usually worn at night and cover the upper or lower teeth. They may be used long term.

The patient’s response to a mouth splint needs to be monitored. The splint usually has to be adjusted after custom fitting to suit the individual.

In addition to splint therapy and the other treatments (above), your dentist may refer you for physiotherapy, a relax attain program or biofeedback training to help stop tooth clenching and grinding.


Possible complications of dental treatment for orofacial pain

Treatment for orificial pain is typically safe, but there are risks. Despite the highest standards of dental care, complications can occur. Any complication will be related to the diagnosis and the type of treatment, which in the case of orificial pain can be varied. If the cause of orificial pain is a condition that has been covered by an ADA patient education pamphlet (for example, bruxism, cracked tooth syndrome or TMJ disorder), then it would be helpful to get a pamphlet from your dentist. Your dentist will be pleased to discuss any questions you may have and possible complications arising from your specific treatment.

It is not usual for a dentist to outline every possible side effect or rare complication of a dental procedure. However, it is important that you have enough information about possible complications to fully weigh up the benefits, risks and limitations of treatment.

One of the most disappointing outcomes for a patient with orificial pain is that the treatment is not successful (or only partially successful) in relieving pain and discomfort.

Some patients may find that initial dental treatment does not help to relieve their orificial pain. Before receiving further treatment, these patients may wish to have their case reviewed by a specialist dentist in orificial pain.