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Orofacial Pain

Orofacial Pain is the specialty of dentistry that encompasses the diagnosis, management and treatment of pain disorders of the jaw, mouth, face, head and neck. The specialty of Orofacial Pain is dedicated to the evidenced-based understanding of the underlying pathophysiology, etiology, prevention, and treatment of these disorders and improving access to interdisciplinary patient care.

Multiple causes for orofacial pain may exist and the symptoms may include such diverse findings as headaches, neck pain, ear pain, dental pain, facial burning or stabbing sensations, and jaw joint pain.

Symptoms may also include atypical pains or sensations such as ringing in the ears (tinnitus), dizziness, muscular incoordination or even abnormal itching or tingling in the head and neck region.

The complaints may either develop gradually or have a rapid onset and can originate from neurovascular, neuropathic or musculoskeletal causes.

Sources of orofacial pain may include:

  • Temporomandibular Disorders (TMDs) - Often incorrectly referred to as "TMJ", TMDs encompass a broad category of conditions involving pain and/or dysfunction of the jaw joints, the muscles of the jaw (masticatory muscles) or both.
  • Trigeminal neuropathic pain disorders - The most well known condition is trigeminal neuralgia. See: FAQ
  • Neurovascular disorders - The most common disorder is migraine. See: FAQ
  • Burning mouth syndrome - This condition, which is both painful and frustrating to patients, may be a manifestation of disinhibition, a form of nerve damage. Other causes include a decrease in saliva production, certain medications, fungal infections and some systemic diseases such as diabetes.
  • Sleep disorders - Sleep problems may include symptoms resulting from sleep bruxism (grinding the teeth during sleep) and clenching as well as conditions that result from sleep related breathing disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea.
  • Orofacial dyskinesias and dystonias - Involuntary movements or contractions of muscle because of faulty nerve signals which may be attributed to side-effects from medication, a nervous system disorder, or they have an unknown cause.
  • Trauma - Trauma, especially from automobile accidents, is a major cause of temporomandibular disorders and other facial pains.
  • Cervicalgia - Neck pains may influence facial pain because of spinal cord injury, peripheral nerve injury, pain referral from muscles and ligaments and central reflex responses.