Oral pain can be the result of problems in the root structures of your teeth, your gums, palate, or soft mouth tissues. Common causes for pain include deep cavities that have exposed nerves beneath your teeth or in your gums,impacted wisdom teeth and gum disease.
In other cases, pain can be caused by clinical problems involving the chewing (masticatory) muscles or temporomandibular joint (TMJ). These kinds of pains are called orofacial pain.
You swallow approximately 2,000 times per day, which causes the upper and lower teeth to come together and push against the skull. People who have an unstable bite, missing teeth, or poorly aligned teeth can have trouble because the muscles work harder to bring the teeth together, causing strain.
Pain also can be caused by clenching or grinding teeth, trauma to the head and neck, or poor ergonomics. Some may experience pain in the ears, eyes, sinuses, cheeks, or side of the head, while others experience clicking when moving the jaw or even locking if the jaw is opened or closed. (Top)
Here are some common types of orofacial pain:
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are problems affecting the jaw joint and muscles. Your TMJs are located where the skull connects to your lower jaw. To feel these joints, place your fingers in front of both ears and open your mouth. The muscles on the sides of your head and face control the joints’ movements. Researchers believe women between 20 and 40 are most likely to suffer from TMD because of the added oestrogen in their bodies. (Top)
- Headaches – One in eight Australian suffers from headaches. Experts estimate that 80 percent of all headaches are caused by muscle tension, which may be related to the bite. Headaches also can be caused by clenching jaw muscles for long periods of time. Signs that may indicate a headache from a dental origin include:
- Pain behind the eyes
- Sore jaw muscles or “tired” muscles upon awaking
- Teeth grinding
- Clicking or popping jaw joints
- Head and/or scalp is painful to the touch
- Earaches or ringing
- Neck, shoulder or back pain
- Dizziness (Top)
- Sleep disorders – If you have gone through treatment and still experience orofacial pain, you may have a sleep disorder, such as bruxism, or a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as snoring or sleep apnoea. Bruxism is the technical term for grinding and clenching. Snoring that goes undiagnosed may lead to an increased tendency for the airway to collapse, leading to sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea is a condition when the tissues and muscles in the back of the throat collapse the airway. This can cause a person to wake up multiple times in the middle of the night, sometimes without knowing it. ( Top)
Some orofacial symptoms can be relieved by an orthotic, or splint, that is worn over the teeth until your bite can be stabilized. Permanent correction may require reshaping teeth, building crowns, orthodontics, or a permanent appliance for the mouth. Your dentist might also recommend physical therapy, counselling, relaxation training or massage therapy.
- Placing an ice pack on the painful area for 10 minutes, three or four times daily.
- Eating softer foods and avoid chewing gum or ice.
- Cutting your food into smaller pieces.
- Keeping your upper and lower teeth slightly apart except when chewing or swallowing. Keeping your tongue between your teeth may help with this.
- Sleeping on your back.
- Not resting your hand on your chin.
- Not resting the receiver on your shoulder when talking on the phone.(Top)