Orofacial pain is discomfort that involves the head, face, neck, Jaw or teeth. The symptoms include migraines and other headaches, muscle spasms, face pain in the cheeks or forehead, and tooth pain. It can even include pain around the eyes and ears. At times, finding the cause of the pain is challenging. Investigating the issue with your family medical practitioner is typically the first step, but often the source of orofacial pain is related to your dental health and requires a dentist to cure. The Yuba City Dentistry Group is prepared to help if you suffer from orofacial pain. What are some of the typical causes?
Repetition for Emphasis
Orofacial pain covers a wide array of pain and its sources, so for now let’s narrow the focus to the dental field. For example, the average person swallows two thousand times a day, causing the upper and lower teeth to come together and push against the skull repeatedly. Imagine if your teeth are out of alignment or missing. Every one of those swallows pulls and pushes your jaw in asymmetrical ways, forcing your muscles to work harder than necessary. Your facial muscles wear out from the overcompensation, causing soreness and pain. Besides the teeth, other parts of the mouth are also implicated.
Temporomandibular Joint Problems
And you thought “orofacial” was an unusual word! “Temporomandibular” Joint Disorders, or TMJ for short, are problems affecting the jaw joint or its surrounding muscles. If you place your fingers in front of both ears, then open and close your mouth a few times, you’ll feel the jaw joint working. Some people hear or feel a “click” when chewing food — this is a common symptom for TMJ disorders. According to the National Institutes of Health, over ten million Americans are affected by this disorder to some degree.
Sleep Disorders and Orofacial Pain
Both bruxism (a technical term for teeth grinding) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or OSA) usually manifest when a person is sleeping — they might not even know they’re doing it. Yet, they typically cause a person to wake up with a sore jaw or other orofacial pain. OSA is especially dangerous, since it involves soft tissues in the throat blocking the airway, effectively suffocating the person as they sleep. If you or someone you know snores heavily, stops breathing while they sleep, complains about fatigue or never getting a good night’s sleep, promptly contact their primary care coordinator or our Yuba City dentist for an examination.
Headaches — a Vicious Cycle
If you have a pulse, you’ve probably had a headache at some point in your life. Most sources say there are over six hundred muscles in the human head, and when some of them tense up or spasm, like from clenching or grinding your teeth, the result is a headache. Chronic headaches are not normal. If you experience headaches frequently, it’s important to inform your doctor and your dentist, so they can investigate the issue. The next time you come in for a checkup or cleaning, make sure to let the Yuba City Dentistry Group know about any increase in orofacial pain, including headaches.
Symptoms of Orofacial Pain
Here is a small list of common symptoms associated with dental-related orofacial pain:
- Teeth grinding
- Clenching the jaw
- Sore or “tired” jaw muscles when waking up
- Clicking or popping jaw, especially when chewing
- Sensitive or tender scalp
- Ringing in the ears, or frequent earaches
- Tension in the neck, shoulders or back
The primary step is to identify the cause of the pain — is it related to your dental health or a different factor? Your dentist at the Yuba City Dentistry Group can help you determine that. Just as there are different kinds of orofacial pain, there are also different kinds of treatments. If your pain is linked to your dental health, your dentist thoroughly examines the issue, and then discusses the cause as well as all available treatments, from a mouthguard to orthodontics to oral surgery. But we can’t make a proper examination without your presence, so give us a call or schedule an appointment online today. Why deal with orofacial pain if you don’t have to?