What is orofacial pain?

Orofacial pain is a general term given to pain felt in and around the face. The pain can be of a throbbing, sharp or burning nature. Pain is primarily present in the mouth or jaws, but can extend to the head and neck.

Most orofacial pains are dental in origin, including toothache caused by infection or dental abscess. The second most common cause of orofacial pain is dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

Common signs of TMJ dysfunction and orofacial pain

  • Pain in the face & jaw
  • Head & neck pain
  • Ear ache
  • Pain when yawning or when chewing hard or crunchy foods
  • Limited or restricted opening of the jaw
  • Abnormal wear to the teeth
  • Grinding & clenching of the teeth often with associated sleep problems
  • Face or jaw ache on waking, with tightness &/or teeth sensitivity.

How is TMJ and orofacial pain related?

The TMJ can cause pain and reduced movement of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Each of us has two jaw joints. There’s one on each side of the face connecting the mandible, or lower jaw, to the skull.

When muscles and joints are not working in harmony, muscle spasm and joint inflammation can result, producing pain and dysfunction.

Malocclusion and orofacial pain

A highly recognised cause of orofacial pain in both adults and children is a misaligned jaw – or malocclusion. This happens when the upper teeth aren’t lined up correctly with the lower teeth. In some cases the upper teeth overlap the bottom teeth, in others, the lower jaw protrudes left or right, or the bottom jaw may sit too far forward. All of these conditions affect the mandible, or lower jaw, and give rise to dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint.

In extreme cases, a misaligned jaw – or malocclusion can result in the jaw locking open, or closed. If that happens, seek immediate medical assistance at either the TMJ Relief Clinic or a hospital emergency department.

Can orofacial pain be treated?

Orofacial pain caused by disorders of the TMJ, including malocclusion, can be treated in a number of ways. Dependent on the type and extent of the malocclusion, a specially made dental appliance called a mandibular advancement splint may be prescribed. If the malocclusion is severe, orofacial, dental or orthodontic treatment may be required.

What should I do if I am concerned about orofacial pain?

For a comprehensive assessment of your orofacial pain and treatment options, book an assessment with us today.