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Centering In On The Pain

Centering In On The PainA cutting-edge Tufts center - the largest in the U.S.- is focused on a common, but often overlooked, cause of headaches.

Boston [10.25.02] While the symptoms are quite common - including headaches, shoulder stiffness and sore necks - the cause of the head and neck pain that impacts millions of Americans every year has been largely overlooked: teeth. But a cutting-edge center at Tufts -- the first of its kind in Boston -- is taking a new collaborative approach to diagnosing and treating what doctors call "craniofacial pain."

"I thought I had a brain tumor," Elisabeth Oppenheim -- a patient at the new center at Tufts' School of Dental Medicine -- told Boston's Channel 5 News. "I thought there was no way my teeth could cause this much pain."

Oppenheim -- who has suffered from serious headaches for more than six years -- met with specialists across the country to try to find the source of her pain. But it wasn't until she met with the interdisciplinary team of experts at Tufts -- led by Dr. Noshir Mehta -- that Oppenheim found relief.

"My entire body was sick from my teeth, and nobody realized that," she told Boston's ABC News affiliate.

For many patients like Oppenheim, the unique team of Tufts experts have been able to shed new light on the sources of their persistent pain and headaches.

"The muscles of the head and neck are all related to the bite, and most tension headaches are muscle-related," Mehta told Channel 7, explaining that the simple act of clenching teeth can cause significant head and neck pain.

It's a problem many people face.

"Dr. Mehta said that 80 percent of headaches are tension-related, and he feels dentists -- not pain doctors -- should be the ones called in to help," reported the news station.

Through Tufts' Craniofacial Pain Center, he's doing just that.

Mehta -- who specializes in craniofacial pain and teeth grinding -- helped bring together an interdisciplinary team of doctors and other specialists from around the University to create the innovative center at Tufts, which is based at Tufts' School of Dental Medicine.

"The center brings together specialists in dentistry, medicine, neurology, psychology, chiropractic and physical therapy to name a few," reported Boston's NBC News affiliate WHDH-TV, which described the facility as "amazing.""The center takes into account stress and psychological factors, offering services that include acupuncture and biofeedback. [It] has the most current tools for diagnoses and treatment."

The center also has a rapidly-expanding patient load.

To help accommodate the growing interest in its services, the center has opened an expanded facility that will accommodate 1,500 new patients a year, making it the largest center of its kind in the country.


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