You know that persistent ache in your jaw that bugs you all day long? It might be because of TMJ disorder, or maybe you just took a hard hit during your company soccer game. Either way, that jaw pain falls under the definition of “orofacial pain.” What exactly does this term mean, what causes it, and how can you find relief? Let’s talk about this important and fascinating subject.
Understanding Orofacial Pain
The term “orofacial pain” is a general phrase for any pain that you feel in your mouth, jaw, or face. It’s easy to remember what it means when you break it down: “oro” for your mouth, and “facial” for your face.
Okay, now that we’ve had a quick vocab lesson, let’s get into the science behind orofacial pain. Researchers at a dental school in Oregon recently dove into this type of discomfort and made an amazing discovery. When you suffer harm to your face or mouth, there is a dramatic increase in the production of a specific protein. The protein sends signals to your pain, and your brain responds to that signal by causing you pain. That’s how you know that something is amiss.
This groundbreaking research could potentially lead to new ways for dentists and doctors to treat their patients’ orofacial pain.
Common Causes of Orofacial Pain
We mentioned at the outset of this post that TMJ disorder is a potential culprit behind orofacial pain. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless potential causes behind pain in your face and jaw, and in an estimated 95 percent of cases, oral health issues play a role in the agony. Some dental problems that might cause you pain include:
- Pulpitis (inflammation inside a tooth)
- A dental abscess (an infection)
- Gum disease
- Oral cancer
- A cracked or broken tooth
Coping With Orofacial Pain
Until the aforementioned research into the pain-signaling protein yields new methods for treating orofacial pain, we’ll have to stick with old-fashioned ways of coping. Here are some tips to help you handle your discomfort:
- Visit your dentist as soon as you can. A dental professional can examine your mouth and pinpoint the problem behind your pain. Treatment might involve a root canal, an extraction, TMJ therapy, or gum disease therapy.
- Take mild painkillers. OTC pain relievers can take the edge off the agony, but be sure not to apply them directly to the tooth that’s hurting; you don’t want to accidentally cause chemical burns on your gums. If there is swelling, ice might help.
- Avoid chewing on the side of your mouth that hurts. You don’t want to risk exacerbating the problem.
Orofacial pain is a big-time bummer. Instead of suffering with it, why not let your dentist lend a helping hand?
About Preston Bend Dental
Dr. Anita Naik Madhav leads the talented team of professionals at Preston Bend Dental. We provide many dental services that are designed to help preserve and restore your oral health. If you’re experiencing orofacial pain, we’re eager to help relieve your discomfort. Please contact our office at 972-618-1111.