Misdiagnosis Leads to Ineffective Treatments
Madam Lee (not her real name) is in her late 40s, and came to my dental clinic in severe distress. She had been suffering for months with a triple combination of jaw pain, neck pain and headaches. Chronic pain at this level is excruciating, and would have a negative impact on anyone’s quality of life.
She had visited an ENT (ear nose & throat) specialist, a neurologist, a general medical practitioner, and even a psychiatrist. Yet none of these medical practitioners were able to diagnose her with any disorder. Some of her doctors even thought that her chronic pain might be psychogenic in nature.
Her doctors subsequently diagnosed her with migraine disorder and psychogenic pain. They started her on antidepressants and migraine medications. Unfortunately, these medications did nothing to relieve her of her jaw pain, neck pain or headaches.
*Disclaimer: As of March 30, 2020, the ADA (American Dental Association) has officially recognised Orofacial Pain as its 12th dental speciality. Any reference to ‘specialisation’ is made in the context of the United States of America. For more information, please visit our Disclaimers and FAQ pages.
Reviewing Her Case at Nourish Dental & TMJ Care
When Madam Lee came to my dental clinic, I reviewed her case in great detail, apart from doing essential investigations and tests. Her pain complaints, medical history and past results were all taken into consideration.
We discovered that she was actually suffering from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, better known as TMD or TMJ Disorder.
The Complications Due to Other Pains Disorders
Diagnosis was complicated due to the fact that Madam Lee also suffers from Osteoarthritis. Her jaw muscles and joints were already worn down due to this condition, even before her TMD diagnosis.
She also had muscle pain in her neck, known as Cervical Myofascial Pain. When you combine all these pain conditions that involve her head, jaws and neck together, she has what is known in medical terms as ‘Regional CranioCervical & Masticatory Myofascial Pain’.
Due to the complex mix of medical conditions that Madam Lee has, she developed not only one, but multiple types of headaches. In her case, they are TMD and Cervicogenic headaches. These headaches can mimic the symptoms of migraine disorders, which often leads to misdiagnosis.
The Importance of a Proper Dental or Medical Diagnosis
We started her on a range of pain management therapies suited to her needs. Her pain condition improved after these extensive therapies and treatments. With that, she is now able to have a semblance of normalcy in her life.
Her case study in particular highlights the importance of a proper diagnosis. Without which, we cannot target and treat the underlying pain problem with full effectiveness. This prolongs the patient’s pain and impacts their quality of life. The guesswork and hit-or-miss treatments can be costly as well.
What a Trained Pain Management Dentist Can Do for You
Another little known fact is that trained Pain Management Dentists – aka Orofacial Pain Specialists – are also well equipped to diagnose and treat pain conditions beyond that of the teeth and mouth. Jaw pain, neck pain, headaches and other types of pain in this region of our body are often connected. They can present lookalike symptoms to other chronic conditions, yet yield unexpected diagnoses.
Dr. Eric Chionh runs the practice, and is formally trained in Oral Medicine and Orofacial Pain. He holds a Singapore Dental Council approved qualification in these areas. You can learn more about Dr. Eric Chionh’s qualifications and our dental practice here. Visit Our Services page to view all dental and pain management services we provide.