Maixner, Others Lead Large-scale Jaw Pain Study to Better Understand Pain Disorders

Researchers at the Center for Neurosensory Disorders, a part of the UNC School of Dentistry, served as the lead researchers in the first large-scale clinical jaw pain study, called the Orofacial Pain Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment study, or OPPERA. The study, led by Dr. William Maixner, produced new findings about painful jaw problems that plague millions of Americans, leading to a better understanding of pain disorders.

The study results provide insights into potential causes of temporomandibular joint disorders, known as TMD. The findings, published in the November issue of the Journal of Pain, should lead to new methods of diagnosing facial pain conditions, predicting who will be susceptible to them and new treatment approaches.

“Previous studies haven’t been able to be as conclusive as OPPERA because they’ve often included fewer participants and didn’t follow participants for an extended amount of time,” said Maixner, OPPERA study program director and also director of the Center for Neurosensory Disorders. “OPPERA is allowing us to study potential biological, psychological and genetic risk factors over a longer period of time, so we will be able to better evaluate the association of these factors with TMD. This novel study will also allow us to learn more about pain disorders in general, and will improve our ability to diagnose and treat chronic pain conditions across the board.”

Other Center for Neurosensory Disorders researchers who participated in the OPPERA research are Dr. Luda Diatchenko, Gary Slade, Ph.D., Eric Blair, Ph.D., and Dr. Shad Smith.