Experts in Treating Chronic Facial & Oral Pain Conditions (TMJ/TMD, Jaw Pain, Headaches, etc.)
Get relief from chronic pain in your face, jaw or neck.
We specialize in treating oral pain conditions, from tooth pain to chronic headaches and nerve related trigeminal neuralgia. Our oral medicine and facial pain experts use evidence-based methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of facial pain disorders. We offer both non-intrusive and surgical treatments for many types of conditions.
The oral and facial pain specialists at UIC in Chicago are experts in treating oral and facial pain conditions, including evidence-based methods of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of oral facial pain disorders. If you have conditions such as chronic headaches, jaw disorders, breathing issues or habits such as teeth grinding, you could be at risk for facial pain. Sometimes the causes of facial pains are associated with underlying diseases, head and neck cancers, oral legions or other oral conditions. Our oral medicine and oral facial pain specialists work closely with primary physicians and other dentists to plan the most effective course of treatment for you.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as head, face, mouth, neck pain, oral legions, facial spasticity, temporomandibular disorder (TMD, jaw pain), sleep disorders related to breathing problems or similar concerns, our oral facial pain specialists can help.
Facial pain conditions we treat include:
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ joint pain, jaw pain, arthritis of TMJ joints )
- Masticatory musculoskeletal pain (muscle pain )
- TMJ internal derangements ( disc problems inside the jaw joints like clicking, popping, locking of TMJ joints)
- Neurovascular pain (migraine, tension type headaches, etc.)
- Neuropathic pain ( nerve pain issues like Neuralgias or more constant pain inside the mouth)
- Burning mouth syndrome
Ready to speak with one of our experts?
Do I Have Chronic Facial Pain?
According the American Academy of Pain Medicine, 100 million Americans suffer from some form of chronic pain. Of those, over 10 million suffer facial pain, such as jaw pain (TMD / TMJ), headaches or earaches. Generally, people suffering from facial pain have been in chronic pain averagely for 4 years and have seen 5-6 providers before getting proper diagnosis or management.
As opposed to temporary acute pain, chronic pain usually persists for a long time. It can be extremely traumatic and lead to many years of suffering from un-diagnosed conditions.
Common Causes of Facial Pain
There could be many causes of facial pain ranging from trauma induced pain to the more common causes of pain including:
- Tooth pains: Most commonly can be the source of varied type of facial pains as teeth could relate to facial pain such as pain referral to the jaw muscles, cause headaches. Tooth pains thus should be ruled out first before other causes are verified.
- TMD/ “TMJ” issues: TMDs are a group of jaw pain and dysfunction conditions involving these areas - the masticatory muscles, the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) and associated structures.Often, people will say they "have TMJ."
- Nerve Pain disorders: Nerve pains could be mainly – Episodic (which occur occasionally at irregular intervals) and continuous kinds (which are present all the time and may vary in intensity throughout the day). Episodic pains could be neuralgic pains- such as Trigeminal Neuralgia.
- Sinus issues: Sinus issues could cause facial pain which could be more like a pressure feeling on the mid face area and multiple teeth.
Temporomandibular, Joint Disorders (TMD / TMJ)
Do you have severe jaw pain?
TMDs (temporomandibular disorders) are a group of jaw pain and dysfunction conditions involving jaw muscles, and the temporomandibular joints in the jaw (TMJ) and associated structures. Often, people will say they "have TMJ."
Diagnosing and treating TMDs can be difficult. UIC offers specialized expertise in this area of oral facial pain management. If you have symptoms such as pain in the jaw, ear or neck, headaches, muscle soreness, or locking of the jaw joint making it difficult to open or close your mouth – you may have a TMD or jaw related disorder.
Signs and symptoms
- Pain in your cheek, jaw, or temple
- Headaches, ear pain, or neck pain
- Jaw locking, clicking or popping
- Soreness in muscles upon waking
Here's what you need to know about TMD / TMJ - the 'jaw-dropping' facts, if you will.
What are Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD / TMJ)?
Millions of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain, such as jaw pain, headaches or earaches. The source of these aches and pains may be related to one or both of the temporomandibular (TM) joints. Located on each side of the head, these joints work together, with a complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones, to make different movements for chewing and speaking.
TMDs are a group of jaw pain and dysfunction conditions involving these areas - the masticatory muscles, the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) and associated structures. Often, people will say they "have TMJ." TMJ is actually the name of the joint associated to the disorder.
What can cause TMDs?
Although the exact cause of TMD remains unclear, medical professionals believe that the symptoms stem from problems with the muscles of the jaw, the joints or even stress:
Acute trauma: Direct or indirect trauma to the jaw (e.g. fractures or contusions from motor vehicle accidents, whiplash injuries, sports injuries or prolonged wide opening of the mouth during dental appointments).
Chronic micro trauma: This includes chronic repetitive low-grade injuries to the jaw joint complex. Common examples include grinding or clenching the teeth during the day and/or at night, diet consisting of hard, tough, chewy foods, chronic gum chewing.
Stress: Stress is known to be very strongly associated with TMDs. Patients with TMD / TMJ are found to have a much higher incidence of stress and anxiety when compared to those without TMD, which may contribute to the jaw problem or may be caused by it.
What are the signs and symptoms of TMD / TMJ?
The exact cause of your TMD may be difficult to determine, but there are clear signs to look for:
- Pain in the cheek areas, around the jawline, and/or in the temple region. Those pains may be increased by chewing hard or tough foods and other oral activities.
- Clicking or popping sounds or crunchy sounds in the jaw joints (in front of your ears) when opening your mouth
- Soreness in jaw muscles on waking up in the morning
- Locking of the jaw joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
- Headaches, ear pain, or neck pain may be associated with TMD
- Sometimes the bite may feel different despite not having had dental treatment.
Treatment Options for TMD / TMJ
We offer both non-surgical and surgical treatments for TMD / TMJ management.
To help you determine the causes, and the best course of treatment, we will conduct an examination of your head and neck, and perform an intraoral exam. We also use diagnostic imaging techniques such as Panoramic (Pano), CT scan, or MRI as needed.
Nonsurgical Treatment: After comprehensive history taking and examination, treatment plans are tailored to individual needs and symptoms. The emphasis is on conservative treatment approaches. Oral appliances such as splints / night guards can be made by the dentist, if grinding at nighttime is suspected to play a role in the muscle or joint pain problem. These can relax painful muscles and reduce joint soreness. We may also prescribe appropriate medications for pain, inflammation, muscle relaxation, etc. Referral for professional Physical therapy is often part of the treatment plan, including: Occupational therapy, Psychotherapy, Neurologists, Rheumatologists, Chronic Pain Specialists, etc. may be referred, depending on the patients’ symptoms.
Surgical Treatment: Surgery is rarely needed for the overwhelming majority of TMD patients. However, if nonsurgical management provides inadequate relief, and if the jaw joint has a clear mechanical or pathological process requiring surgical intervention (e.g. tumor, disk problems, rapid progressive degeneration of the jaw joint), surgery may be considered.
Trigeminal Neuralgia - A Traumatic Nerve Pain Disorder
What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a painful, chronic condition involving the trigeminal nerve. There are about 12 cases per 100,000 people in the United States each year.
There are two separate trigeminal nerves, one on each side of the face. These nerves are responsible for carrying the sensation of pain and other sensations from the face to the brain. Each nerve has three branches (forehand, midface, and chin). It’s possible to have TN of any (or all) branches. TN causes intense pain in part or all of the face.
The pain can be brought on by mild stimulation of the face, such as brushing your teeth or shaving. It’s often described as feeling like electric shocks or stabbing. People with TN may initially have short, mild instances of pain, but over time they may experience longer, more frequent attacks of intense pain. Most people with TN experience symptoms in cycles — pain comes and goes for days or weeks, then subsides. In some cases, the condition becomes progressive and pain is always present.
There is no specific test for TN, so diagnosis can take time. Treatment depends on the cause and severity of the condition. Several medications are available to provide relief from pain and to decrease the number of episodes. Sometimes surgery is required.
Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia
The pain of TN can come in sharp spasms that feel like electric shocks. Pain generally occurs on one side of the face and may be brought on by sound or touch. Pain can be triggered by routine acts, including:
brushing your teeth
putting on makeup
touching your face
eating or drinking
a breeze on your face
You may experience bouts of pain that last only a few seconds or minutes. A series of attacks can last days, weeks, or months, followed by periods of remission.
VIDEO: How We Helped This Patient Manage Trigeminal Neuralgia
VIDEO: What is Facial Pain?
There are many chronic and progressive neuropathic pain types affecting millions of people. Get the facts.
VIDEO: Oral Medicine & Early Diagnosis
Why oral medicine is an important part of maintaining overall health.
VIDEO: Helping Patients Face the Pain
How we helped a patient manage trigeminal neuralgia, an extremely painful nerve disorder of the face.
Facial & Oral Pain, TMJ Specialists at UIC
Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of Oral Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences
Dr. Sahni completed her residency program in Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine from the University of Southern California. She is specialized to provide diagnosis and treatment related to TMJ disorders, facial pain and headaches, neuralgias, bruxism, sleep disordered breathing, oral mucosal lesions and oral cancer detection. Her treatment methodology utilizes non-surgical and minimally invasive techniques.
- TMJ disorders, facial pain and headaches, neuralgias, bruxism
- Sleep disordered breathing
- Oral mucosal lesions and oral cancer detection
- Non-surgical and minimally invasive techniques
Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Dr. Michael Han received his DDS degree at University of California at Los Angeles, and completed residency training in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Washington, where he was exposed to a high volume of orthognathic surgery and developed a keen interest in the treatment of dentofacial deformities and related obstructive sleep apnea. Following residency, Dr. Han completed an oral and maxillofacial surgery fellowship at Dalhousie University with a focus on orthognathic surgery, temporomandibular joint surgery and arthroscopy. There, he was trained in surgical planning and techniques developed by Drs. Jean Delaire and David Precious, both pioneers in the field orthognathic surgery.
- Surgical correction of jaw deformities and malocclusion
- TMJ surgery
Request a consultation
UIC College of Dentistry provides expert, affordable treatment options to help you manage facial and oral pain.
Schedule a private consultation for an evaluation and learn more about the treatment options and costs.