If you’ve experienced facial or orofacial pain, you already know that it can be rather uncomfortable — and somewhat unsettling.
It can also be very sudden, persistent and occur without any real indication of why it’s happening. When unexplained facial pain occurs, it can be difficult to identify its actual root cause.
Facial Pain as a Result of TMD
You may be surprised to find that the cause isn’t actually something wrong with the face, per se; instead, it’s quite often related to the collection of jaw problems known as temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.
TMD develops when the TMJs (also known as the temporomandibular joints) become damaged or out of alignment. These joints are located on either side of the head and are used for activities like talking, chewing and biting. So when they become worn or damaged, it can cause pain in and around the jaw and in the face.
When there is wear and tear or damage, the face’s nerves can become irritated and trigger pain, which can be acute or chronic and is often very intense.
The Signs of TMD
As we mentioned, the TMJs are located on either side of the head and are where the lower jaw connects with the skull. When these joints are worn out or damaged, pain can occur.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 10 million people in the United States have a form of TMD. Researchers also estimate that many of these individuals are undiagnosed.
Symptoms of TMD include:
- Jaw pain
- Facial pain
- Neck and back pain
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Limited or impaired jaw function
- Locking of the jaw or feeling as if the jaw is going to lock open or closed
- Stiffness in the muscles of the jaw
- Popping, clicking, snapping or grinding when opening and closing the jaw
- Headaches or migraines/pain in the temples when waking up
- Difficulty eating
- Unexplained ear pain/feeling as if the ear is “full”
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Ringing in the ears
Facial Pain as a Result of Trauma
Many individuals can experience facial pain — which can become chronic — after experiencing trauma to the temporomandibular joints or the muscles that surround the joints.
This trauma can stem from whiplash caused by a motor vehicle accident, a fall or being struck in the jaw. Sometimes, the resulting damage can be minor, as in just a damaged nerve, but even this can contribute to facial pain development.
Facial Pain as a Result of Behaviors
Did you know that chewing too much gum can be bad for your jaw joints? It’s true. Chewing gum excessively can definitely cause facial pain, as can chewing other tough foods like beef jerky.
Many people who bite their nails frequently experience facial pain as well.
Both of these situations occur because they can put stress on the jaw joints, causing them to become inflamed, which can also cause irritation and swelling in the joints, leading to facial pain.
Another behavior or risk factor that is linked to facial pain is bruxism, or clenching and grinding the teeth. These actions put significant pressure on the TMJs and cause other issues, including tooth damage and gum recession.
Facial Pain as a Result of Poor Posture
If you’ve got chronically bad posture from sitting at a desk or sitting improperly in a chair, this can put stress and strain on your back, which means the potential for neck strain, jaw and masticatory (chewing) muscles that are pulled out of alignment, and — you guessed it — facial pain. Other effects of poor posture include tension headaches.
Facial Pain as a Result of Stress
As we mentioned above, teeth clenching and grinding can cause a significant amount of stress on the jaw joints. These actions often develop as a result of stress, which can come from work, relationships or busy schedules.
Facial Pain as a Result of a Bad Bite
If your bite is not aligned, it can put stress on your jaw joints, which can cause facial pain and problems.
Other Causes of Facial Pain
While in many cases the cause of facial pain is related to temporomandibular joint disorder, other factors or even a medical condition can contribute to its cause. These factors include:
Dental problems: pain stemming from the teeth or gums, such as decay, periodontitis or dental abscesses
Nerve problems: pain associated with the nerves of the face (facial neuralgia)
Blood vessel problems: facial pain can be triggered by problems with the blood vessels and inconsistent blood flow
Are you experiencing facial pain? The Bend Headache Center can help. We understand the causes of facial pain and help treat the cause — not just your uncomfortable symptoms — through a range of treatment options and therapy to give you peace of mind.
Learn more about how we can help facial pain patients by calling The Bend Headache Center today for more information about our treatment options or to schedule a consultation.