Mr Deepak Komath, Oral and Maxillofacial Consultant at the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth, tackles a common and distressing condition, facial and jaw pain.
Facial and jaw pain is common and can be very debilitating but there are a wide range of ways we can help patients manage and overcome the issue.
The symptoms for temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD)- to give it the technical name – can include pain and tenderness in the jaw, pain in and around the ear, a difficulty chewing, the jaw locking and aching facial pain.
The good news is that all can be treated with techniques available to our specialist team here at the hospital. Your symptoms may mimic toothache, sinusitis, headache and neck pain, and therefore initial treatments may not have resolved the issue which can heap concern onto the discomfort.
I see and treat a lot of patients with TMD and know they can suffer considerable pain which makes it so important to have the right guidance and management of the condition so that we can return you to a symptom-free life.
The problems are centred in the temporomandibular joint which acts like a sliding hinge connecting the jaw-bone to the skull on both sides of the face. Cartilage and a shock-absorbing disc act as buffers between both sets of bone but, if they wear out, the joint does not function cleanly and some patients often hear a clicking sound when they move their jaw around.
Pain can be generated by a combination of factors including jaw injury, arthritis, genetics or a propensity to grind your teeth.The team here has a depth of clinical experience in treating all facets of TMD and, in most cases, it can be cured with structured management and surgery is usually a last resort.
There are simple measures that can help many cases such as eating a soft diet and resting the jaw by avoiding activities such as gum chewing, teeth grinding, wide yawning and pencil chewing. In most cases, the TMD is not progressive although symptoms, and the pain, may fluctuate as it is brought under control.
Pain killers along with ice packs or a warm flannel, applied to area experiencing pain, and light massaging of the muscles can be very effective. We also advise and guide patients in improving their relaxation and sleep methods to encourage better self management to reduce the risk of TMD flaring up.
Each case is particular to an individual and we advise setting realistic targets to control the physical stress contributing to the pain while also understanding that it can take a huge emotional toll on a patient. We have the skills and experience to minimise its impact and provide a well-paced recovery.
Some patients may experience acute and severe symptoms which require a short course of sedatives or a neuropathic analgesic. There may also be a need for some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help with the anxiety the condition can cause.
We often recruit experts from our physiotherapy department to provide additional help with passive jaw stretching exercises, posture training and muscle relaxation protocols such as massage or acupuncture.
Chronic and worsening symptoms that have endured for more than three months along with unexplained persistent pain or trauma injury will obviously require more specialist therapies with X-rays and MRI scans needed. This could result in the need to consider injections to relieve the pain, minimally invasive procedures to irrigate and clean the joint or keyhole surgery.
But all of these methods are discussed in full detail with the patient and are only suggested after other routes have been explored.
Jaw pain can be very distressing and it is often difficult to appreciate how corrosive it can be both physically and psychologically.
An early diagnosis will always help us provide advice that can manage the symptoms and restore you to health.
Many patients may be reluctant to seek help, dismissing the pain as something like toothache or ear-ache, but it is vital that they see a doctor or dentist in the first instance and then consult a specialist.
We have the experience, the expertise, the staff and facilities to treat jaw pain swiftly and effectively and, with that, we can banish the distress it causes.
Max Fax London
MaxFax London provides a comprehensive and expert service relating to conditions of the face, mouth and jaw. Based at the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth, the centre provides state-of-the-art facilities with same day appointments available.
We have two leading Consultants including Mr Deepak Komath available for appointments. Contact [email protected] or call, 020 7078 3845.