Facial Pain

Treating Facial Pain

Orofacial pain is recurring pain felt in the face or oral cavity. The pain may be dull, sharp, or throbbing. Individuals with chronic or recurring facial pain may feel various sensations, including pain around the eyes, a chronic ache in the jawline, locking of the jaw, pain that causes difficulty eating or speaking, or chronic headaches.

Common causes of orofacial pain include genetic defects, disease, nervous system dysfunction, severe periodontal disease or tooth decay, traumatic facial injury, and jaw misalignment.

Diagnosing the cause of facial pain can be difficult because pain tends to be widespread across the face, jaw, and skull, making it harder to find the source of the problem. At Smile Design Studio of Bethesda, we successfully diagnose and treat facial pain with the latest techniques for effective pain relief.

Trigger Point Injections

Facial pain can be caused by tension in trigger points in the face, neck, or jaw. Trigger points are tight, sensitive muscle fibers formed within muscles, often caused by overuse, stress, or injury. A single trigger point can radiate pain along the entire muscle. Trigger point injections can release the trigger point and relieve the pain.

During trigger point treatment, extremely fine needles are inserted into the affected muscles for 30-60 seconds. Lidocaine or another numbing agent is administered through the needle for temporary pain relief. However, long-term relief is the result of needling – rhythmic insertion and retraction of the needle to encourage the release of tightness in the muscle. For most patients, trigger point therapy provides a month to two months of pain relief. In severe cases, steroids may also be injected into the trigger points to calm inflammation.

Botox for TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorder causes the jaw to clench unconsciously throughout the day, particularly at night. The constant tension leads to inflammation and pain. Botox injections in strategically mapped locations on the face, jawbone, and skull relax the muscles and ligaments to provide relief that can last three to four months. This innovative treatment is minimally invasive and requires no recovery time. You can learn more about how Botox relieves facial pain on our Botox for TMJ page.

Appliance Therapy

Appliance therapy is another option offered at Smile Design Studio of Bethesda that is effective in relieving TMJ-related pain. Our doctors evaluate the root cause and location of each patient’s orofacial pain, then design a custom dental appliance that addresses the source of the pain while providing temporary relief.


This hard acrylic or plastic mouthpiece realigns the jawbone while you sleep, relieving pressure on the affected joints. It is custom fitted to hold the jaw in the proper position and hold the teeth slightly apart, giving the muscles and ligaments a chance to relax. A nightguard also prevents teeth grinding or bruxism that can contribute to facial pain.

Anterior Positioning Appliance

An anterior repositioning splint moves the lower jaw backward or forward to move a dislodged disc in the jaw into the proper position. This short-term appliance is usually only worn for a few months to ease the slipped or dislocated disc back into place and train it to stay there. The device is usually worn 24 hours a day, giving the area time to heal.

Orthotic Stabilization Appliance

This oral appliance relieves facial pain by preventing teeth grinding and jaw clenching. It fits over the upper teeth. It is designed to “brace” the temporomandibular joint and alleviate the aggravation of the inflamed area. Most patients wear an orthotic stabilization appliance at night, but 24-hour wear may be needed in severe cases.

Finding the Cause of Facial Pain

The first step in treating orofacial pain is determining the cause, which begins with an appointment with one of our dentists. As specialists in TMJ disorders and orofacial pain, we can determine the why and how of your pain and design a personalized treatment plan to address it. If you are suffering from chronic facial pain, jaw pain, or headaches, we can help. Contact our office at Bethesda Phone Number 301-907-8201 to schedule a consultation to discuss treatment options.

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