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Orofacial Pain

What is the difference between a TMJ Specialist and an Orofacial Pain Specialist?

Millions of Americans will develop a problem with their temporomandibular joint (TMJ) at some point in their lifetime. TMJ Dysfunction (TMD) is often characterized by pain in the TMJ, chewing muscles, or both. While clicking and popping sounds are a common symptom present in TMD, they are generally not a problem and do not necessarily require treatment. If pain arises, or you have difficulty opening or closing your mouth, you should seek treatment from a dentist who is skilled in managing TMD. This type of dentist is known as a TMJ specialist.

In most cases, TMD can be well managed with simple, conservative treatments performed by a general dentist. In more complex cases, TMD may also be associated with comorbid illnesses such as headache, chronic neck pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.

Like a TMJ specialist, a Board-certified Orofacial Pain Specialist can provide treatment for your TMD comprising physical and traditional medicine as well as fabrication of an oral appliance (commonly known as a night guard). In addition, a Board-certified Orofacial Pain Specialist has specialized training and experience for management of complex TMD cases with comorbid illness.

A Multidimensional and Personalized Approach to Treatment

In his assessment and treatment style, Dr. Cebula accounts for the fact that we are all individuals with unique experiences, emotions, and environments that may affect illness symptoms and treatment outcome. For example, a person with a high degree of life stress may unintentionally clench and grind their teeth, resulting in trauma to the chewing muscles and TMJ. If the pain from TMD is untreated and ongoing for a long period of time, this person may notice a decreased quality of life and even develop symptoms of depression. Research shows that emotion and pain are often interrelated, as both anxiety and depression can affect perceived pain intensity and threshold. This can become a vicious cycle.

As a part of your initial examination, Dr. Cebula will address your psychosocial background to determine if referral to a cognitive behavioral specialist is necessary to effectively manage your TMD, headache, neck pain, or sleep disorders.

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