What Exactly is “Orofacial Pain”?
If you’re a patient at MedCenter TMJ, or have been diagnosed with a temporomandibular disorder (TMD), you may already be aware of the term “orofacial pain.” But what exactly does this term mean for you if you have TMD?
Orofacial pain is a complex area of medicine that encompasses many different illnesses and conditions, including TMD. Orofacial, in simplest terms, means relating to the mouth (oro) and face (facial). But, this area of medicine is anything but simple.
An Academy for Orofacial Pain
The American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP) is a professional academy for medical practitioners that focuses on this specific area. Members of the AAOP are dentists or other medical professionals who are dedicated to alleviating pain and suffering that results from orofacial pain. They are directly involved in education, research, and patient care as it relates to orofacial pain and the conditions associated with it.
MedCenter TMJ is actively involved with this Academy. Dr. Auvenshine is a past president of the AAOP, has been a member since 1985, and served on a specialized committee that was responsible for drawing up key treatment guidelines.
The Many “Faces” of Orofacial Pain
One of the reasons orofacial pain is so complex and requires thorough study is because it includes a wide array of causes. Orofacial pain may rely on many different pieces of the puzzle to properly diagnose and treat it in any given patient. This can involve patient history, lab work, x-ray or other imaging tests, behavioral, social, and occupational factors; and a thorough exam by the orofacial pain provider.
Orofacial pain disorders can result from injuries, surgeries, and even cancer. But often, they involve TMD, nerve pain, or headaches. People who have TMD (or symptoms of it) usually find that an orofacial pain provider is best equipped to handle the variety of care that may be necessary to relieve symptoms and address the underlying cause of TMD. Many people with TMD need much more than a night time bite splint and some pain reliever. They may need physical therapy or rehabilitative services, stress relief measures and mental health care, a diet and lifestyle plan, and specialized imaging services that show the jaw and facial structures in great detail.
The scope of orofacial pain is always changing and growing. Though TMD is the most well-known orofacial pain disorder, there are a number of skeletal (bone) disorders associated with the head and neck that fall under the orofacial pain field. Many nerve conditions also cause orofacial pain. In addition, headaches, some sleep disorders, and mouth problems are often treated by an orofacial pain provider.
Orofacial pain should not be trusted to just anyone. Contact MedCenter TMJ to find out how an orofacial pain provider can help you!