What Is Orofacial Pain?

Orofacial pain refers to a specific type of pain felt around your face, including in your mouth and jaws. According to the University of Florida Health, dental conditions like toothaches and infection are responsible for around 95% of orofacial pain cases.

You’ve made a great choice to seek out more information about orofacial pain. Not only is the pain itself important to treat or prevent, understanding the source of your orofacial concerns could help reveal the underlying cause. Knowing the underlying cause of your pain can prevent other associated problems, such as worsening oral problems from an untreated infection.

What causes orofacial pain? Sources of orofacial pain may include:

  • Odontogenic pain (from your teeth or associated dental issues)
  • Musculoskeletal pain (from your muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, or bones)
  • Vascular pain (from issues with your blood vessels or circulation)
  • Neuropathic pain (from damage, dysfunction, or disease in your nervous system)
  • Pain referred from elsewhere in your body (like headaches or pain in your ears, nose, and throat)
  • Pain following a surgical procedure
  • Pain from other medical conditions

Keep reading below, and we’ll go into greater detail on orofacial pain and some more in-depth information on the two most common causes: dental conditions and disorders with the joint of your jaw.

More on Pain

The amount and duration of orofacial pain van vary greatly due to the extensive range of underlying causes. Your brain, nervous system, and sensory functions are each complex in their own right and supported by other systems. Your pain may be short-lived and resolve on its own or the sign of an underlying condition that requires treatment.

Pain can be associated with many parts of your body’s function, meaning pain that you feel in your face could come from anything from a toothache to a migraine or a condition affecting your body’s other systems. This means that the pain source is not always the same as the place when you feel its sensation.

Rest assured, there are specialists for each of these systems prepared to diagnose and treat any pain you may encounter. Your dental professional will be a great resource for oral problems, while other medical professionals will be happy to assist you with other conditions.

Dental Conditions

There are many different presentations of pain. More accurately describing the type you feel can help your dental professional diagnose and treat its underlying cause.

Types of oral pain may include:

  • Temperature sensitivity: Can be caused by dental treatment, tooth decay, gum disease, or infection (depending on how severe the pain is and how long it lingers).
  • Sharp pain when chewing: Can be caused by decay, damage to the tooth, or infection.
  • Persistent or severe pain: Can be caused by infection, injury, or decay.
  • Dull aches: Can be caused by sinus headaches, grinding your teeth, and other conditions.

Be sure to reach out to your dental professional for their expert recommendation and diagnosis. The sooner you confront your pain, the more you can avoid potential associated problems and find relief!

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

The joints that connect your jaw to your skull (temporomandibular joints) are complicated structures that can develop disorders leading to pain. Together, these are known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD).

Symptoms of TMD may include:

  • Orofacial pain
  • Limited movement of your jaw when speaking or eating
  • Jaw gets stuck open or closed
  • Face fatigue
  • Popping or clicking sounds

Causes of TMD may include:

  • Stress or grinding your teeth (also known as bruxism)
  • Arthritis (including both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis)
  • Injury to your mouth, face, or jaw
  • Dislocation within the joint

Both your medical and dental professionals can help manage orofacial pain from your temporomandibular disorder (TMD). They can examine your TMJ to help diagnose and treat the underlying cause and guide you on methods to prevent the associated pain.

How to Manage Orofacial Pain

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, understanding your pain's underlying cause is crucial to know the proper steps to take for treatment and relief. For this reason, it’s essential to receive an expert diagnosis from your dental or medical professional so you can rest easy and avoid unneeded discomfort.

Because pain has so many root causes, your dental or medical professional may refer you to a specialist who can best guide your treatment and offer specific, cutting-edge advice. Pain management is a field in its own right, so they may even recommend a clinic focused on your pain itself.

Your dental or medical professional may recommend treatments, including:

  • For dental causes: Fillings for cavities, root canal procedures for infected teeth, dental restorations (like crowns), practicing proper dental hygiene, and other procedures.
  • For TMD causes: Avoiding big movements of your jaw, performing exercise at home, and other interventions.
  • Medications: Prescription or over-the-counter options to help manage your pain or treat its underlying cause.

An important takeaway is that are many causes of orofacial pain due to your body's complexity, but dental problems and TMD are the most common. Because it's so vital to discover your pain's underlying cause to find relief, you've made an excellent choice to increase your knowledge of the subject.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 


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2.3 billion

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What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay