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Understanding The Difference Between Craniofacial Pain, Sleep Apnea And TMJ

Earlier the treatment of orofacial pain used to fall under the category of temporomandibular disorders. However, now-a-days, there are specialists present for the treatment of this disease which is also referred to as Craniofacial pain management. While the TMJ treatment is restricted to the treatment of the jaws only, Craniofacial pain management covers head, neck and shoulder pains, which may sometimes reflect themselves as facial pains. Craniofacial pain management basically deals with the problems in the trigeminal nervous system. It is a nerve, which runs through the side of the face.

Symptoms Of Craniofacial Pain

Following are some of the common symptoms of this pain

  • Headaches occurring on a daily basis.
  • Early morning headaches
  • Pain of the headaches starts from the temples and spread through the back of the head and even behind the eyes.
  • Migraine medicines are ineffective.
  • You are in the habit of clenching your teeth.

US Food and Drug Administration has very recently given approval to dental appliances for treating this problem through various non-invasive and non-surgical techniques.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

OSA is a quite common and it occurs due to the relaxing of the soft tissues on the back of your throat causing blockage in the airway. When the blood flow stops, the brain needs to restart the breathing process and therefore, there is a small time gap of about 10 seconds when your breathing stops completely and this can cause gasping or choking. Because of this problem, a person is not able to sleep well, thus leaving him or her tired in the morning. Besides this, it can cause other chronic problems as well and in some cases prove fatal too.

Dr. Sanjay Arora, a senior TMJ Dentist from New Delhi, India, believes that Sleep Apnea is caused due to “Infratemporal Catastrophe”, a theory proposed by him and gaining acceptance gradually. In this he describes how medial disc displacement, may be playing role in causation of Sleep apnea. The medial disc displacement causes the head to twist, turn and bend from its most central position due to the accessory nerve irritation which is the first nerve encountered by a medially displacing disc. The nerve lies just 0.5 cm medial to the (or inner to the), inner most or medial border of the housing of the TMJ disc, or glenoid fossa/mandibular fossa. This causes a twist/bend in the trachea, leading to a turbulent air flow instead of just laminar flow, published years ago in Famdent, India. This causes micro-injury causing three changes in the Tracheal and bronchial passage

  • Redness. – leads to closer contact of blood to the surface of these passages, leading to absorption of antigens, like Perfumes, dust, pollen and Vehicular fumes etc, This leads to typical Respiratory allergy patterns, and mostly respond very well to balancing of the TMJ.
  • Fluid formation- This leads to chronic and tough clearing of throat repeatedly as seen in mostly older people now rising in younger generation too.
  • Swelling – This is what contributes to narrowing of air passages, leading to four times more pressure as per as Poiseuille’s law in Physics, and hence becomes a vicious circle. Muscles around the air passage have to work harder according to Dr. Sanjay Arora’s hypotheses, and go to rest whenever consciousness state is low. This leads to apnea while the narrowing leads to hypopnea.

Treating OSA

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine is used for delivering constant airflow during sleep and thus treating sleep Apnea. The use of this machine is quite cumbersome and not every patient responds well to the machine and therefore, various non-invasive and non-surgical options have been developed for treating this disease. Oral appliance therapy is yet another option available for treating OSA. A patient who is not responding well to the CPAP machine can be fitted with an appliance which helps in positioning the tongue and the jaws in such a manner that continuous airflow can be provided during the entire sleeping time.

Dr. Sanjay Arora proposes, correction of posture by adjusting TMJ and this has been producing encouraging results.

TMJ Disorder

TMJ is a jaw disorder and is highly complex in nature. Detecting the exact cause of the same is also quite tricky. Some of the common symptoms of the same include:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Noises coming from the jaws
  • Ringing and pain in the ears
  • Jaw movement becoming restricted
  • Dizziness
  • Pain in throat and neck
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Problems in swallowing
  • Tongue, cheeks and gums also experiencing pain
  • Clenching or grinding of teeth
  • Click link to find cause of lower body pains and other connected diseases in TMJD

For proper treatment of TMJ, it is important that the root cause of the same is diagnosed correctly and therefore, you need to make sure that the doctor you visit for this problem has the necessary training and experience in handling these treatments. Besides surgery, there are many non-invasive and non-surgical methods for treating TMJ.

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