When to See an Orofacial Pain Specialist

jaw pain

Why Persistent Jaw Pain Patients Need an Orofacial Pain Specialist

Normal, daily facial movements like laughing, chewing, and yawning occur effortlessly for the average, healthy person. Individuals suffering from a chronic jaw pain problem may find it quite challenging. People with a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) often experience a lot of pain when chewing tough foods or during a wide yawn.

The TMJ problem can arise due to various issues such as arthritis, stress, infections, sports or car accident injuries, and hurtful habits. These life experiences may cause a dislocation or damage the natural way your jaw joints are meant to function. If this is what you are facing, your pain is a signal saying that it is time to take action.

These pains can be mild or severe, depending on the cause and how long they are left untreated.

Fortunately, The American Dental Association’s National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards (NCRDSCB) announced in March of 2020 the dental field of Orofacial Pain (OFP). The American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP) defines OFP as “the specialty of dentistry that encompasses the diagnosis, management, and treatment of pain disorders of the jaw, mouth, face, and associated regions.

Unfortunately, many consumers and even physicians are still unaware of this facial pain medical specialty.

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are the most widespread orofacial pain symptoms for which people in the United States seek treatment. While you may not recognize or feel familiar with what a Temporomandibular disorder is, it covers a number of clinical problems that involve the masticatory musculature, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or both. Seek jaw pain help from the right medical professional.

People who can identify that they are experiencing the following conditions should seek a referral to an Orofacial Pain Specialist:

  • Jaw pain.
  • Facial pain.
  • Headaches.
  • Neck pain (often adding referred pain in a person’s shoulders)
  • Tooth pain.
  • Clicking, popping, or locking in the temporomandibular jaw joints.
  • Ear pain, ringing in the ears, or plugged ears.

General dentists are ideal to seek help form to alleviate pain especially acute tooth pain. However, dentists are frequently challenged with pain complaints from teeth and oral structures that show no visual signs of pathology with common pain characteristics. This is what prompted the creation of the Orofacial Pain Specialist that provides solutions when the textbook rule of our perception of dental pain and jaw pain is insufficient.

Cases have been published where dentists acknowledge their inability to recognize the characteristics of head and neck complex pain patterns. This has led to many a delayed or misdiagnosis. In some instances, it even prompted the performing of unnecessary irreversible dental treatment.

For example, a patient arrives at their dentist’s office with the chief complaint of toothache. When the patient states that he/she is in severe pain and is convinced that the pain is a tooth and is adamant that the dentist do something to get rid of the pain, a referral to an OFP is not made, but rather, the dentist performs root canal therapy only to have the patient return shortly complaining of the same “tooth pain”. A decision is then made to perform aa Apicoectomy on the same tooth.

The decision may then be made to remove the tooth. However, the tooth extraction does not resolve the original presenting facial pain issue and now the pain has worsened. If you are asking the “why?”, insist on a referral to a board-certified orofacial pain specialist.

Most of all, with persistent jaw pain, it’s important to take time out to visit an Orofacial Pain Specialist. Do so without delay!

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