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Modern life can cause jaw pain

2017-08-02

Stress is a strong contributing factor to jaw pain, a phenomenon that is particularly prevalent among young women and compounded by societal and lifestyle pressures. 

At the Faculty of Odontology, research is being conducted into an internet-based ‘pain school’ designed to help improve pain and stress management among patients.

“Some 4-7 per cent of children suffer from jaw pain as well as other functional disruptions, such as headaches. It is also on the increase among teenagers, particularly females, and the figure currently stands at 10 per cent,” said Professor EwaCarin Ekberg. 

Pressures on time, particularly for the young

EwaCarin EkbergShe highlights the pressure of being young, with a constant barrage of new thoughts, impressions and options.“You want to be everywhere all the time. You want to be constantly connected. Not to mention the burden of schoolwork and a diary full of leisure activities.

Children and young people make demands on themselves and this can be further compounded by demands from parents.

”The fact that jaw pain is frequently related to stress and daily life is revealed in dental studies focusing on pain, its causes, and its consequences.

“Young people don’t give themselves time to recover, resulting in poor sleep patterns. In many cases, the problem is not addressed until they begin complaining of headaches,” said EwaCarin Ekberg.

Internet-based school to help with the pain

Jaw pain has traditionally been treated with the aid of a bite splint. EwaCarin Ekberg and Per Alstergren, both professors and specialists in bite physiology, have run internet-based pain schools for children, young people and adults.

Per AlstergrenAs dentists, they have seen at first hand the escalation in stress-related problems, particularly among young women.“Stress, sleep and pain are interlinked. A very strong underlying stress factor is the pain itself, and we have noted a parallel rise in stress, pain and other functional problems,” said Per Alstergren.

He also emphasised the importance of addressing the problem in time and the need for the dental care system to do more to identify this particular group of patients.

“A patient with jaw pain is not dealt with in the same way and to the same extent as a patient who presents with the conventional dental diseases normally encountered by the care system,” said Per Alstergren.

The pain school focuses on the patient’s awareness of their lifestyle and seeks to formulate strategies to get to the root causes of the stress. “What does my day look like?” In what situations do I feel stressed?”

Per Alstergren talks about the biological, psychological and, not least, social consequences of pain.“The patient is in pain and feels worried, anxious and at times fearful. However, perhaps the worst thing is when you are not coping with your job, not managing to meet friends, or not even having the mental and physical stamina to play with your children. A combination of all these factors can prove extremely challenging,” said Per Alstergren.

“If you can alleviate the consequences, the pain becomes more manageable. It is the consequences that are the most daunting to live with.

”The pain schools are due to be evaluated. Failure to complete the programme is a dilemma, particularly among children and young people.“We intend to follow up the dropouts. A bite splint has never been a problem, but with the pain school the patient needs to work on it and for many this can be difficult,” said EwaCarin Ekberg.

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Adrian Grist