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Maxillofacial Pain – Commonly Asked Questions

  By: Dr. Carol Goldschmidt

What is maxillofacial pain?

The term “maxillofacial pain” is a general term for several problems in the region of the head which are not considered dental problems (like for example, caries or periodontitis). In English the terms TMD (temporomandibular disorders) or TMJ (temporomandibular joint) are used, which refer to the jaw, although most of the problems involving mastication don’t directly stem from a problem with the jaw joint.

jaw pains
Jaw joint


What are the symptoms of maxillofacial pain?

  • Difficulty and/or pain when opening the mouth and/or chewing.
  • Pain in the area of the jaw joint (near the ear) or in the mastication muscles (face, temples, neck).
  • Noise from the joint while the jaw is moving (when the mouth is opened widely, while yawning, while chewing).
Are these problems common?
Research in Israel and worldwide shows that close to 75% of the population express or have experienced in the past at least one symptom of functional impairment in mastication. The most common symptom is noise from the joint – “clicks,” which appear in approximately 35% of those studied. In addition, 33% of the subjects in the studies complained of at least one of the following symptoms: headache, joint pain, pain in the area of the mastication muscles. In most of the cases, a professional examination and explanation teaching self-treatment are the only treatment needed. Statistically, between 5% and 7% of those suffering from symptoms of pain or other problems involving mastication require active treatment.

Who should I contact if I think I have this problem?
There are no “specialists” specifically for these types of problems in Israel, but it is preferable that the diagnosis be made and the problem treated by a dentist who is a member of the Israeli Union for Maxillofacial Pain. These are dentists who have undergone the appropriate training at a recognized institution and deal with functional problems involving mastication.

How are functional problems involving mastication treated?
  • Medicinal treatment
  • Instruction by a dentist for self-treatment (avoiding harmful habits, exercises to improve muscles function and the jaw joint function, and more)
  • Physiotherapy
  • Treatment using retainers (similar to an orthodontic retainer)
  • Behavioral treatment aimed at minimizing the level of mental stress, and medical hypnosis
  • Surgical treatment in very rare cases

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