1. bruxism
  2. Craniomandibular problems
  3. Craniomandibular problems and orofacial pain

Craniomandibular problems and orofacial pain

 It is estimated that 15% to 20% of the population suffers from this problem.

Craniomandibular problems

Craniomandibular disorder is an inclusive term that encompasses different processes affecting the temporomandibular joint and periarticular tissues, including the masticatory muscles. A very high percentage of joint disorders often lead to joint pain. In fact, almost 80% of patients, according to some epidemiological studies, have neck pain.

It is common for these patients to present localized pain in the orofacial region or referred to the head and neck, all of which may coexist with a greater or lesser loss of mouth opening or other masticatory difficulties.

The physiotherapist is critical in the multidisciplinary team treating these patients, as he/she may be the one to provide the most complete treatment as long as he/she is an expert in the area and adopts a multimodal therapeutic approach.
The specific cause of a disorder of this type is unknown since it can appear in any person and at any time. However, scientific evidence shows that they affect women more than men and that about 20% of the population suffers from them. The leading causes that trigger them are parafunctional (such as bruxism) and stress. After the COVID-19 pandemic's lengthy development, emotional stress seems to be a primary trigger that has increased this type of pathology in patients who were not suffering from disorders until now.

In addition to parafunction and stress, there are other related risk factors such as high-speed trauma or accidents involving mandibular fracture, micro and macro trauma, specific occlusal characteristics, prolonged mouth opening time (long dental treatments such as endodontics, for example), rheumatoid arthritis, and the fact of being a woman. In addition, there are associated factors that may contribute to the worsening of temporomandibular disorder, such as poor sleep quality, low levels of physical activity, the coexistence of headaches, and anxiety and depression.
The most appropriate treatment for these disorders is conservative. For many years, surgical interventions were performed to correct disc positions or to improve the lubrication of the joint and clean it internally. These procedures have ceased to be performed routinely, among other things, because scientific evidence has shown that conservative treatment is the best option.

Within the conservative options, there is the possibility of taking analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, or muscle relaxants, as prescribed by the physician. Botox for bruxism or masticatory muscle pain is also currently on the rise. However, this expert in the area assures us that insufficient scientific evidence justifies using Botox for analgesic purposes in these patients. For this reason, she always recommends treatment using manual therapy on the craniomandibular structures and the prescription of therapeutic exercise. All this, together with the appropriate recommendations and a systematic therapeutic education process, make it possible for patients to recover in most cases. If correctly performed, very few will have to undergo surgery.
It is essential to manually treat and precisely prescribe the exercises in these cases; with some patients, the participation of a maxillofacial surgeon will be required to assess whether the case may require surgery.

On the other hand, it is essential to point out that many patients with long-standing craniomandibular disorders develop psychological disorders. For this reason, he believes that the interdisciplinary treatment team should always include a psychologist since some patients need cognitive-behavioral therapy focused on reducing pain, managing daily stress, or treating certain maladaptive behaviors that the patient may present.