Patients who snore might suffer from nerve and muscle damage in palate

According to Umeå University in Sweden, people who snore might have extensive tissue damage in the nerves and muscles of the soft palate. As a result, this can create problems for patients when swallowing. It can also contribute to the development of sleep apnea. Treatment options often include early intervention to stop snoring, which can have benefits in healing or preventing the development of sleep apnea.

Development of sleep apnea remains unclear

It is still unclear why some people develop sleep apnea. Some factors that might contribute are obesity, a small throat, neurological diseases and hormonal disorders. However, even if the patient doesn’t have any of those factors they might have sleep apnea. Rresearch has also shown that tissue damage in the soft palate is also an important contributor to the development of sleep apnea and disturbances in swallowing function. Farhan Shah, PhD, a student at the department of integrative medical biology at Umeå University, says that the nerve muscle injuries appear to contribute to the collapse of the upper airway during sleep. The nerve and muscle damage might be the result of recurrent snoring vibrations that the tissues are exposed to.

His dissertation looked at eight patients who snore and 14 with both snoring and sleep apnea compared to 18 non-snoring people. The patients were studied overnight. Tissue samples from their soft palate were also analyzed to detect muscle and nerve lesions. Results showed that snorers and sleep apnea patients had extensive damage to both nerves and muscles. This is related to the degree of swallowing disorders and severity of sleep apnea.

Research is needed on muscle damage

This is good information for us to know, but there is still so more to observe and research. This knowledge can help us to gain a better understanding of the various connections.

This research is also a step in the right direction and we need to look at treatment of sleep apnea. Will treatment help to prevent nerve and muscle damage? Could it prevent or cure further deterioration in patients who snore and/or have sleep apnea?

Creating a referral network for the treatment of craniofacial pain

Patients can feel discomfort without knowing that the underlying cause might have a dental origin. This can include anything from headaches to jaw pain. And with an estimated 45 million Americans complaining about headaches each year–that’s almost 1 out of every 6 people–it is time to take a stand and complete continuing education as a dentist. By better understanding craniofacial pain, how to treat these condition and how to create a referral network, you can be that solution they need for pain relief.  Let’s take a look at the treatment of craniofacial pain and how building a relationship with an appropriate medical professional is important.

Craniofacial pain treatment

There is a large portion of the  U.S. population that is not getting treatment they need to overcome their often debilitating disorders. This has created an incredible need for dentists who understand the neuroanatomical relationship within the cranio-cervical area and how to diagnose common pain complaints in the head and neck. But remember, the treatment of craniofacial pain is a team effort.

This team-based care often includes you, the dentist, an ENT, neurologist, physiatrist, physical therapist and psychiatrist. Each specialist plays a role in the diagnosis and treatment of craniofacial pain. However, it is important for the dentist to understand what physicians do in a diagnostic workup and treatment, as well as when it is necessary to refer out. This helps dentists to better understand their role and to fulfill their duties in patient care, as well as establishing referral relationships across various medical specialties.

Establish a Working Relationship with a Medical Professional

Patients will often find themselves in a neurological, primary care, chiropractic, pain management or an ENT’s office when experiencing craniofacial pain. However, these offices are not always be the best place. For example, undiagnosed TMD may be mistaken for different ailments because this condition can often stump many medical practitioners with the wide variety of a 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.

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.

Chronic Pain and Addiction: What are Your Thoughts?

A Huffington Post article discusses the opioid epidemic in the United States. This epidemic continues to increase dramatically with over 2 million Americans struggling with abuse of an opioid pain reliever. This Huffington Post article discusses the effects of chronic pain and how addiction can grow from this. Let’s take a closer look:

The Article

An estimated 100 million Americans experience chronic pain. This chronic pain can be caused by an injury, with the most common complaints of headaches, neck pain, facial pain, lower back pain, and others. Unfortunately, though, many times the pain can be enigmatic and complex or difficult to diagnose. When this happens, treatment might seem too out of reach for many patients, who then result to pain medications, such as opioids, to cope.

Women and Pain

Women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain and TMD than men. Temporomandibular joint disorders can have a wide effect on the jaw, head, and neck, and can be attributed to headaches. TMD can also be linked to pain in the ears and can be caused by:

  • Bruxism
  • Poor Body Structure
  • Growth abnormalities
  • Trauma
  • Hormones
  • Stress
  • Problems in the brain and nervous system

This pain can also lead to further complications, such as sleep disturbances. With 42 million people reporting pain or physical discomfort disrupting their sleep throughout the week, it is important to provide our patients with proper treatment. Through proper treatment we can hope that we can eliminate or decrease opioid use and addiction among women.

Let’s keep an eye on this topic and see what more we can do as dentists and craniofacial pain specialists. But before I end, I want to know what your thoughts are on this topic? Should we be doing something more?

Essential Oils for TMD Relief

Today there are a variety of options available for pain relief. Typically, many people will go the way of medication or even surgery if completely necessary. However, what about the alternative options you have for receiving pain relief? While many people might not agree with it, essential oils have been proven to provide relief in many ways. The FDA has not listed it as an option, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try it out! I know many people who utilize essential oils for a wide range of symptoms and they say it works every time, which helps to keep options natural. Let’s take a look at some essential oil options you might want to test out for pain relief—your patients might enjoy these options in addition to their oral appliance therapy!

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a great essential oil option, but why? Well, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of this essential oil:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Fruity smelling
  • Helps to ease the pain from earaches that radiates into jaw and neck

There you have it—it not only smells good, but it is an anti-inflammatory that helps to provide relief from earaches to jaw and neck pain.

Pain-X and Muscle Relax

In addition to the use of an oral appliance for proper treatment, Pain-X helps with the pain. Alternating between Pain-X and Muscle Relax can allow for proper relief, but don’t be afraid to utilize both at the same time while massaging it onto the area of your jaw joint, as well as behind the ears.

Strength

There are so many options available for essential oils and, yes, there is one called Strength that works! Many people have used Strength for their TMD and have shown success. Simply take the Strength essential oil and rub it around the jaw area to gently massage the joint. By doing this, many people have experienced almost immediate relief from discomfort—its worth a try, right?  You might even want to try to put a drop of Strength behind each ear, on the jaw and at the base of the neck to cover all areas that might experience soreness.

If you are interested in learning more about essential oils and the different options available, do it! And, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me because I have some experience with these oils as well! Let me know your thoughts on essential oils and how they might have worked for you or your patients!