Being in pain is undoubtedly a strong motivation to attend a maxillofacial clinic. Numerous disorders and conditions are associated with pain in the mouth, jaws or face as a prominent symptom. Often this will be acute pain, for example caused by an infection, by a fracture or by a mouth ulcer.
Such cases of acute pain are not what is usually covered by the term ‘facial pain’, or ‘facial pain syndrome’. This term includes conditions where more often than not the cause of the pain is unknown (idiopathic pain), the pain tends to be chronic, and it has a complicated role (acting both as a symptom and as a condition). It is not always possible to arrive at a precise diagnosis for facial pain (hence the condition is also referred to as facial pain syndrome, a medical buzzword for poorly defined conditions). Even if it isn’t always possible to precisely diagnose facial pain syndrome, the pain is real and needs attention. If no concrete diagnosis can be made, it is still necessary to exclude as many underlying causes as possible to make sure that vague pain is not a symptom of a serious underlying condition. A thorough medical history and examination will go a long way in this direction; where necessary follow-up appointments will continue to monitor the condition (and the effects of any treatments).
Roughly speaking, facial pain syndrome can be described by four major symptom complexes :
- Facial arthromyalgia (jaw joint pain, or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction syndrome)
- Atypical facial pain (non-joint or muscle pain)
- Atypical odontalgia (toothache without identifiable dental cause)
- Oral dysaesthesia (oral sensory disturbances).
Next section: Facial pain syndrome