Getting to the root of chronic conditions that affect the head, neck and mouth can be a pain in the neck and, well, the mouth and head, too. Across the country, there are few private-practicing doctors who concentrate in orofacial pain or oral medicine and even fewer who focus on both; in fact, the two were not even recognized by the American Dental Association until 2020. Katrina Myers, DMD, is one of those few who practice both OFP and OM. She recently joined Charleston Oral and Facial Surgery and is working to bring relief to patients suffering from related chronic pain right here in the Lowcountry.
With her focus in orofacial pain and oral medicine, Dr. Myers’ patients are usually referred to her when their chronic condition cannot be diagnosed or alleviated by their doctor or dentist.
“Traditionally it’s not something you can easily or practically do as a general dentist because production is what keeps the lights on. Diagnosing and treating OFP and OM issues can be very time-intensive. You spend time with patients delving through their history – sometimes going back 20 or 30 years ago,” Dr. Myers explained. “In many cases, from general practice, the patient experiencing chronic problems gets sent to oral surgery, but the surgeon declines because they do not need surgery. OFP and OM are such niche specialties that patients often don’t know that these options are available.”
Dr. Myers works with patients on health issues ranging from temporomandibular joint syndrome to chronic oral soft tissue lesions on the cheeks, tongue and gums, persistent canker sores, systemic conditions in the soft tissues of the mouth, taste changes and persistent dry mouth – to name a few – in order to diagnose and either resolve or manage the problem and improve each patient’s overall quality of life.
The majority of pain patients I see have been struggling with jaw, head or neck pain for years and have not found alleviation through routine treatments like night guards and muscle relaxers,” she said. “It’s the same with oral lesions – if they’re having sores in their mouth that no one can diagnose or that don’t respond to treatment, that’s where I come in.”
In focusing on these two new niches, Dr. Myers finds joy in helping her patients find answers and an improved quality of life.
“For me, it’s about making relationships with people. I get to see them when they’re at their most vulnerable – when they’re in pain. They are hoping to find someone who believes them and is willing to take the time to root out the cause of what’s going on. There’s a lot of psychology in that as well – it’s perfect for me,” she smiled. “Sometimes the research and what we know about the human body hasn’t progressed enough for answers yet, but I’m there to listen to my patients, validate their experiences and work with them to find ways for their health to improve.”
For more information on Charleston Oral and Facial Surgery, visit www.charlestonoralandfacialsurgery.com.
By Anne Shuler Toole