Treating Pain: Connecting the Dots

“Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience that motivates the individual far more than perhaps any other life experience.” (Source: Bell’s Oral and Facial Pain/ 7th edition by Jeff Okeson)

There are many forms of chronic pain, most of which eventually effect quality of life so dramatically that patients seek help from a medical professional:

  • Headaches, migraines
  • Temporal pain
  • Cluster headaches
  • Tooth sensitivity or pain
  • Jaw tension, pain and “tired jaws”
  • Neck pain, shoulder pain

For many, this often results in symptomatic, palliative care that fails to identify and address what is really causing the pain.

The Mechanics of Orofacial Pain

As a dentist trained in the comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of orofacial pain, I can offer patients the opportunity to analyze some of the common factors affecting chronic head, neck, jaw and back pain. In many cases this type of chronic and acute pain is related to the function of the bite.

Through careful evaluation of cartilage breakdown, bone breakdown, muscle activity and bite pressure, I can work with patients to address mechanical problems with the bite. Using advanced diagnostics, it is possible to determine the root cause of your pain when there is dysfunction in the bite. The results of your diagnostics can be used to create a personalized treatment plan that can serve your unique needs: realign the bite, adjust tooth surfaces for proper contact and/or reposition the jaw to reduce muscle tension.

The Emotional Side of Pain

One of the key, and often misunderstood, elements of diagnosing and treating pain is the evaluation of the emotional and psychological factors. While the physical symptoms can be addressed with proper dental or medical care, cultivating emotional healing is important for the restoration of your quality of life. In many cases, without this aspect of care, long term results may be hard to achieve.

As a dentist, I can work with you to address the mechanics of the bite and your physical symptoms, but my goal is to help you also identify the underlying emotional concerns. Through a confidential questionnaire, I provide patients the opportunity to explore their feelings, experiences and lifestyle as part of the journey toward living without pain.

Connecting the Dots: the Mind Body Connection

The traditional approach to pain relief is typically pharmaceutical, relying on the use of pain relievers that only serve to reduce our symptoms. The role of dentistry in diagnosing and treating chronic pain is growing as scientific studies continue to show how our dental health is affected by stress and pain. Evaluating the tension in the masticatory system can show patients “how” they may be experiencing headaches, jaw pain and neck tension. Encouraging patients to look deeper into their emotional well being can help them find answers to questions about “why” they are experiencing their pain.

This can often be revelatory as patients connect their emotional stress and their recurring pain issues. It is often the key to lasting pain relief.

In the next post I will discuss how I approach treatment and how treatment can benefit your overall health and well being.