It’s no surprise chronic pain can go beyond its actual source. With some forms of recurring back and neck pain, this often includes discomfort extending to arms, shoulders, and legs. What may not be so well known are the possible effects ongoing pain may have on the face, head, neck, and teeth. The staff at The Spine Institute Center discusses a few of the reasons proper dental care is just as important for people with chronic pain as seeing their doctor on a regular basis.
Pain Medications Can Cause Dental Issues
Dental issues are common in individuals living with chronic pain because pain drugs, including antidepressants, NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs), and methadone, may affect teeth and gums with long-term use. Gum tissue may become swollen over time and cause related problems with teeth or affect nerves. Chronic pain medications taken orally may also contribute to:
- Gum swelling (gingival overgrowth)
- Tooth decay or dislocation
- Fungal infections
- Inflammation of the inner lining of the mouth (mucositis)
Pain Meds May Lead to Dry Mouth
Dry mouth (xerostomia) is one of the most common oral symptoms linked to chronic pain medications. Without sufficient saliva, teeth are highly susceptible to decay. Gum disease may gradually develop if dry mouth becomes chronic. Remedies can include drinking more water throughout the day or chewing sugarless gum. Persistent dry mouth may lead to:
- Differences in how food tastes
- Tooth decay and erosion
- Chronic mouth irritation
Untreated Dental Conditions Can Aggravate Chronic Pain
Some patients may have dental conditions that existed prior to their chronic pain. Untreated dental issues like periodontal disease can amplify the effects of chronic discomfort by increasing inflammation and further irritating nerves.
The general recommendation for preventative dental care is twice-yearly cleanings and exams to increase the odds of detecting and treating possible problems early. For patients with chronic pain coupled with persistent dental issues, another option is to see if medications can be adjusted or reduced with other pain management treatments.
Finding a solution to your chronic back or neck pain may help prevent additional, seemingly unrelated conditions. At The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration, we specialize in minimally invasive surgical procedures like spinal fusion and decompression. If you need a coflex implant or are looking for another alternative to spinal fusion, we also specialize in services such as these. Give us a call today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.