Work with Medical Professionals in the Treatment of Craniofacial Pain

From headaches to jaw pain, patients can feel discomfort without knowing that the underlying cause might be dental origins. With an estimated 45 million Americans complaining about headaches each year, which is almost 1 out of every 6 people, it is time to take a stand and complete continuing education as a dentist because you might just be that solution they need for pain relief.

Treating Craniofacial Pain

With such a large portion of the population not getting the right treatment for what are often debilitating disorders, there is an incredible need for dentists who understand the neuroanatomical relationship within the cranio-cervical areaand how to diagnose common pain complaints in the head and neck.

Treating craniofacial pain is a team effort, with the patient’s Dentist, ENT, Neurologist, Physiatrist, Physical Therapist, and Psychiatrist all potentially playing a role in diagnosis and treatment. A dentist must understand what physicians do in a diagnostic workup and treatment and when it’s necessary to refer out in order to truly understand their role and fulfill their duties in patient care and establish referral relationships across various physician specialties.

By learning how to diagnose and treat craniofacial pain, dentists gain a great power to change their patients’ lives. With great power comes great responsibility for the proper diagnosis and management of pain in and around the mouth, face and neck.

Establish a Working Relationship with a Medical Professional

Many patients will find themselves in a neurological, primary care, chiropractic, pain management or an ENT’s office, but that may not always be the best place. For example, undiagnosed TMD may be mistaken for different ailments, as it can often stump many medical practitioners with the vast crossover of symptoms patients experience.

A patient might complain of TMJ pain, but in reality they are suffering from a disease or infection of the ear, nose or throat. It is also common for a patient to complain of ear pain, but have the pain really be related to an affected TMJ. When this occurs, patients might be in the wrong medical office seeking treatment, or the clinician is frustrated that their prescribed therapy based on symptoms has not helped in resolving a patient’s complaints.

Whether it is neurological or sinus related, you want your patients to get the best care available, and that means joining forces with other medical professionals. From neurologists and otolaryngologists to family practitioners, it is important to create a working relationship with each medical practitioner in order to discuss or refer for diagnosis and management of your patients when further assistance is needed.

Whether it is ear, dental or head related, a working relationship with the medical professionals in your community is essential in providing proper treatment for your patients! They will thank you in the end.

Sickle Cell Day and TMD

World Sickle Cell Awareness Day was June 19th, which got me to thinking about the connection it might have with TMD. On June 19th the health community took a stand to increase public knowledge and raise awareness of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and the struggles sufferers and their families go through.

SCD affects millions of people around the world, including both adults and children. It is a potentially fatal disease and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of the main causes of premature death amongst children under the age of five in various African countries.

So, with Sickle Cell Day fresh in our minds, let’s take a look at TMD and how that might hinder a person’s health when suffering from Sickle Cell.

Sickle Cell and TMD

Sickle cell disease is a congenital blood disorder. The abnormal hemoglobin causes microinfarcts that lead to multi-organ alterations, including dental involvement. The entire oral and maxillofacial region may be involved, affecting the teeth, multiple oral structures, and maxillofacial bones. SCD patients are commonly affected by bone and joint complications, including the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

Patients complaining of chronic pain can often experience pain in the orofacial region, especially in the area of the TMJ. With complications in chewing and talking, sickle cell can often be exhibited for those suffering from TMD. For this reason it is important to undergo a series of testing for your patients to determine if the cause of pain is purely sickle cell disease, or if it can be treated due to it being TMD.

Oral Appliance Therapy for TMD Relief

Oral appliance therapy is an extremely helpful and successful technique in treating TMD. These devices are extremely popular among TMD patients due to the simplicity and comfort of the appliance. People describe the appliance as being similar to a retainer for orthodontic treatments, which helps patients feel more comfortable with treatment. These appliances are made to fit a patient’s mouth and their mouth only.
By utilizing this as a treatment option for TMD, we hope that this, too, will help in finding relief for some cases of sickle cell disease. And, while studies continue to be conducted on this area, it is important to pay close attention to your patients’ symptoms.

Men’s Health and Sleep Apnea

Each June is celebrated as men’s health month. And, while June is flying by, we can continue to raise awareness for men’s health throughout the year, too.  Celebrated across the country, Men’s Health Month provides screenings, health fairs, media appearances, and other health education and outreach activities. Why? To help raise awareness for men and their health conditions.

I know you are probably wondering, where do we fit in as dental sleep specialists? It’s simple; Men have an increased risk of developing sleep apnea. Let’s take a closer look:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) vs Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is caused by obstructed breathing, either due to too much tissue as seen in obesity or decreased muscle tone which may be seen with low testosterone. This inhibits the airflow in the mouth and nose which causes snoring and decreased ability for adequate oxygenation during sleep. As a result, men often wake up numerous times during the night and rarely achieve deep sleep.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is a central nervous system disorder in which the brain signal for breathing is delayed. It is often caused by injury or disease affecting the brain stem. However,  most cases of sleep apnea caused by low testosterone is considered to be OSA. Additionally, OSA may primarily be considered a “man’s disease”, but it poses serious and even life-threatening health risks for women who suffer from it, too.

Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea and Depression

According to research, men with sleep apnea appear to have a higher risk of depression. Men with undiagnosed sleep apnea had more than double the risk of depression compared to those without sleep apnea, said study researcher Carol Lang at the University of Adelaide in Australia.  And, according to Lang, men who had both undiagnosed, severe sleep apnea and excessive daytime sleepiness, had an even greater risk of depression. It was shown that their risk of depression was up to five times greater than normal.  With that being said, it is key that we provide the services necessary for providing men with the diagnosis and treatment they need to overcome sleep apnea.

Emphasize Treatment

The purpose of Men’s Health Month is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems while encouraging early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. This month, and every month after, we should be providing our patients with the resources they need to make educated decisions about their health, which means proper screening for sleep apnea.
By catching sleep apnea early, and providing proper treatment options, we can continue to provide our patients with the care they need to remain healthy while also getting the rest they need or have been missing out on for so long.

Be on the Lookout for These Upcoming Lectures!

When we were kids we looked forward to summer break so we could hangout with our friends, enjoy the weather and go on vacation. I know, that was my favorite, too. However, as we grow up we often lose out on those set summer vacations with a break from learning in school. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all! We can still enjoy our summers while also working and learning at the same time!

To help you provide your patients with the best care possible it is important to attend seminars and lectures for continuing education, which can also be a little vacation when these classes take place out of town! Here are some upcoming lectures you can look forward to for a little extra vacation and learning in 2016:

July 15-16, 2016

Topic: Pain & Sleep Symposium

Location: Atlanta, GA

Interested in growing your dental practice in the area of sleep apnea, TMD and craniofacial pain by working with the medical community? Then this Pain & Sleep Symposium is just what you are looking for!

July 29, 2016

Topic: Pharmacology, AACP

Location: Austin,TX

In this session I will perform a detailed review of pharmacological principles for patients with temporomandibular disorder to further help you in diagnosis and treatment.

July 30, 2016

Topic: Identifying SDB in your practice. July 30th 2016, AACP

Location: Austin,TX

On day two I will help in identifying sleep disordered breathing in your practice. Have you ever wondered about lateral tongue scalloping, cervical non-carious lesions, vaulted palate among other areas while performing your patients’ dental examinations? You may not realize it yet, but there are many signs and symptoms you might be noticing while your patient is in the dental chair that may contribute to bigger problems. By understanding clinical findings, you can help reduce your patients’ risks for systemic diseases such as stroke, hypertension and more. Let’s journey through and understand what you can do for your patients.

Upon completion of this presentation, attendees will be able to understand and identify Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB); understand the risks of not treating SDB; identify the signs that suggest the likelihood of SDB; and take the next steps when SDB is detected.

September 9-10, 2016

Topic: Advancing your Dental Sleep Medicine Practice

Location: Houston, TX

Many dentists have taken several dental sleep medicine courses but find themselves struggling to make sleep apnea treatment a profitable service in their dental practice.Tailored to the dental practice that has begun treating obstructive sleep apnea, this course will help take your dental sleep medicine practice to the next level.

September 23-24, 2016

Topic: ABC – Airway, Bruxism & Craniofacial Pain

Location: Chicago, IL

Did you know there is a link between sleep apnea, bruxism, and craniofacial pain? It is becoming increasingly clear that dentists involved in either sleep apnea, TMJ pain, or bruxism treatment should be knowledgeable in all three areas. Learn how to assess your patients, prioritize, and fabricate a treatment plan that provides the best results for these three conditions.

Take a break from the office and join me for one of my upcoming lectures! It will get you out of the office into a new location to not only gain a better understanding of dental sleep medicine or craniofacial pain, but meet other dentists struggling with the same issues and enjoy the new scenery! You can view other lectures here.