Orofacial pain: Causes, symptoms, types, and treatment


Orofacial pain is mainly associated with the jaw, neck, face, mouth, and head. It is a frequent form of pain in your face or oral cavity. It can be caused by some diseases or some of the disorders of your regional structures, nervous system dysfunction, or by referral from distant sources.


Cause of orofacial pain 

There are so many kinds of orofacial pain which certainly make sense that causes are many. In most cases, the reason is mechanical and is related to malformations or structure damage. In many cases, it might be related to some tooth conditions, treatment of such conditions, or even nerve damage.

Some diseases like HIV, cancer, diabetes, and fibromyalgia can cause orofacial pain. In contrast, in others, it is related to some specific behavior such as habitual gum chewing, tooth grinding, or tooth clenching. Currently, research is going on to know the role of genetics, stress, and epigenetics in such pain.

  • Temporomandibular disorder: Often referred to as TMJ, it encompasses a broad category of conditions that involves pain and dysfunction of the joints of the jaws, muscles of the jaw, or sometimes both. TMJ and orofacial pain are related. TMJ causes pain and decreases movement of the jaw joint and nearby muscles. Everyone has two jaw joints on each side of their face that connects the mandible to the skull. When your muscles and joints do not work in harmony, muscle spasms and joint inflammation cause pain and dysfunction.
  • Neurovascular disorders: One of the most common disorders is migraine
  • Burning mouth syndrome: This is a condition that is not only frustrating but also painful to the sufferer, which is a manifestation of disinhibition or some nerve damage.
  • Trigeminal neuropathic pain disorders: It is a common condition that can cause orofacial pain.
  • Sleeping disorders: Sleep issues mainly involve symptoms that result from bruxism and clenching, including some conditions that result from sleep-based breathing disorders like snoring or sleep apnea.
  • Cervicalgia: Neck pain can impact facial pain because of the injury of the spinal cord, peripheral nerve injury, pain referral from muscles and ligament pain, and central reflex responses. 
  • Malocclusion: One of the major things that cause orofacial pain is malocclusion or a misaligned jaw. This occurs whenever the upper teeth are not aligned with the lower teeth. In many cases, the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth, the lower jaw projects out to the left-hand or right-hand side, or sometimes the bottom jaw might sit too far in the forward direction. All of such conditions have an impact on your mandible and result in dysfunction of the TMJ. In some extreme cases, malocclusion can cause the jaw to lock or even close when it is time to look for immediate assistance.


Common symptoms of Orofacial pain

  • Pain in jaw and face
  • Pain in head and neck
  • Ear pain
  • Pain while yawning or chewing hard and crunchy foods
  • Limited opening of your jaw
  • Abnormal wearing up of teeth
  • Grinding or clenching of teeth along with sleep problems


Type of orofacial pain

Many kinds of jaw pain are not because of tooth decay or associated conditions that come under the orofacial pain scope. This includes

  • Temporomandibular joint pain
  • Cervical musculoskeletal pain
  • Neurovascular pain
  • Orofacial dystonia
  • Masticatory musculoskeletal pain
  • Orofacial dystonia


Treatment of orofacial pain

Orofacial pain occurs because of TMJ, and malocclusion is treated in several ways. Based on the kind and extent of malocclusion, a particular dental appliance known as a mandibular advancement splint is prescribed. But when the malocclusion is severe, orofacial, orthodontic, or dental treatment is needed.

The first step toward the treatment of orofacial pain is the perfect diagnosis.

A dentist mainly uses the patient's medical history, image studies, laboratory tests, and physical examination to determine the leading cause of pain. Once the location, severity, and reason are known, an entire treatment plan is put together to address the condition. If there is any damage to the jaw or deformity, a dental surgeon is required to repair or rebuild the whole area. When pain is related to an untreated neurological disorder, then part of the entire treatment plan is referred to a neurologist. A physiotherapist is also involved in ensuring that all structures function optimally.

Various reasons cause orofacial pain, but proper management often starts with diagnosis at the right time, and the best is going to an experienced and skilled dentist. So, if you are concerned about your orofacial pain, book an appointment with a dental doctor at MyDentalPlan and go for a complete assessment of your orofacial pain and the various treatment options available.




About the Author:

Suprithi Choudhary, M.Pharm (Pharmacology) Medical Content writer

Suprithi is a Pharma Professional working as a medical content writer and previously worked as a Research Scientist and Senior Research Analyst


  • C.M Academy
  • Attended the Panjab University- Chandigarh, Pharma post-graduate in Pharmacology

Special thanks to Dr Deepak Kulkarni, a dental surgeon with over 23 years of experience who proofread this blog. He graduated from the H.K.E's Dental College, Gulbarga, and has certifications in ACHS International Accreditation Education Plan; Advanced Rotary Endodontic - Restorative Continuum; and Leadership, Team Building and Customer Service Leadership from the Oscar Murphy International.

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