A: Chronic facial pain is an unfortunately common affliction for some 15 percent of American adults. Your dentist can help identify the source of the pain, sometimes by using X-rays.
One of the more common sources of facial pain is a condition called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. The joint is the hinge at which the lower jaw, called the mandible, connects with the upper jaw. Acute or chronic inflammation of the joint can cause significant pain and impair operation of the jaw, in some cases causing it to lock in either open or closed position. The joint, like any other, is susceptible to damage from conditions like stiffness, arthritis and dislocation, either from trauma or regular use. The condition can also cause headaches, dizziness and pain or stiffness in the neck and shoulders.
Treatment might include stress-reduction exercises or medication. TMJ pain is often noticeable in front of the ears, which is the location of the joint. But facial pain can also come from a toothache, a sinus infection or gum disease. Whenever you notice any pain or unusual feeling in your face or mouth, you should contact your dentist.
Information provided by Des Moines Dental Group, 708 First Ave S., 967-6611.