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Women: Orofacial pain may be related to multiple causes

January 15, 2008

Chronic pain in the facial muscles and jaw joint is a common disorder, and can significantly impair a person’s ability to function.  Eating, swallowing, communicating, working, socializing, and even sleeping can be affected by chronic orofacial pain. 

A common type of orofacial pain affects the chewing muscles and is referred to as Myofascial Face Pain (MFP).  This form of orofacial pain is part of a larger category of orofacial conditions referred to as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).  One recent study of community-dwelling women reported that over 10% had MFP. 

To date, its causes and appropriate treatment are controversial. One theory about the cause of this problem is that people with myofascial face pain engage in bruxism (grinding or clenching teeth) more often than other people, during either the day or night. A second theory about the cause of myofascial face pain is that the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of people with myofascial face pain processes pain differently than other people. Clinical scientists have never before studied the role of all these factors in a single group of patients with MFP.

A multi-institutional team of scientists from the University of Medicine and Dentistry at New Jersey (UMDNJ) and the New York University’s College of Dentistry and School of Medicine have joined forces to gather critically important information on the possible role of sleep bruxism, daytime bruxism, and central nervous system processing of pain in causing Myofascial Face Pain (MFP).  Results from this study will hopefully lead to new interventions for this common yet poorly understood condition.   

For more information on this study, please call the NYU’s Bluestone Center for Clinical Research at (212) 998-9310.