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New Supplemental Therapy for Common Jaw Disorder

The UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found a new supplemental therapy that teaches pain coping and biofeedback skills //can reduce pain, the potential for chronic pain and health-care costs for millions of Americans suffering from a common jaw disorder.

The therapy certainly did the trick for Harriet Velevis, a Dallas pre-kindergarten teacher. Her jaw used to throb with intense pain that made it hard to eat or do her job, and dental care provided little relief. But after participating in a UT Southwestern trial of the supplemental therapy, called early biopsychosocial intervention, she learned to self manage the pain. The intervention teaches a combination of coping techniques and tips on controlling stress-related bodily functions.

"Eventually I had no pain symptoms thanks to these techniques. I still use them today," Mrs. Velevis said. "For instance, I have a picture of a countryside scene in my classroom and I focus on it if I begin to grit my teeth or clench my jaw. Focusing on something that makes you happy helps your body relax."

UT Southwestern's trial evaluated early biopsychosocial intervention, which aims to help people at risk of developing chronic pain due to temporomandibular disorder, or TMD. The condition, which is associated with jaw or facial pain, affects more than 10 percent of Americans, making it the second-most common pain-causing muscular and skeletal condition, behind low-back pain.

Trial participants – 20 men and 81 women who ranged in age from 18 to 70 – were divided into two groups. One group got an intervention and standard dental care and the other received standard care alone.

The results, described in a study appearing online today in the Journal of the American Dental Association and in another study published in the journal's March 2006 issue, show that those who received the intervention had significantly lower levels of pain and fewer doctor visits.

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