Digital “pain” school for adolescents with jaw pain was met with a positive response by patients. After a pilot project was conducted at specialist clinics in orofacial pain and jaw dysfunction.

Now the creators want to spread the concept to dentists, health centres and school nurses.

The animated characters were probably what won the adolescents over.

EwaCarin Ekberg

Stress can form in the jaws and face. About 10 to 15 per cent of children and adults suffer from jaw pain, and between the ages of 17 and 19, the percentage is close to 20 per cent. The aim of the pain school is to help adolescents, up to the age of 19, to experience less pain, increase their understanding of why they are experiencing pain, and to educate them about what they can do about it themselves.

The pain school is called E-health/pain-stress and has recently been tested at six different specialist clinics in orofacial pain and jaw dysfunction, yielding good results.

“Few of the patients got completely rid of their pain, but some of the adolescents experienced significantly less pain. They stated that the programme helped them understand and manage their pain, to see the connection between stress and pain, and helped them understand the importance of living a full life despite their pain,” says EwaCarin Ekberg, professor at Malmö University and specialist at the department of orofacial pain and jaw function.

Fourteen adolescents participated in a pilot project with eleven completing the treatment.

The pain school consists of short films with various exercises that patients can follow on a smart device. Common ailments/symptoms and issues are illustrated by three fictitious, animated characters.

One of the participants wrote: “I do not let the pain control my life, isolation is no longer a consequence and I have become more active with family and friends.” Others expressed the pain school was adequately extensive, that it was nice to follow one of the animated characters through the programme, and that they now better understand their pain and how it relates to stress.

“The animated characters were probably what won the adolescents over. As a patient you follow how they handled their situation, absorbed things and how they felt afterwards. The animations made the programme much more accessible,” says Ekberg.

During the pain school, the patient has access to a chat with either a dentist or a dental nurse. After the treatment programme is completed, the dental clinic will call the patient for a follow-up.

“We are satisfied with the positive response the pilot study has had. Some of the adolescents did not feel any need for further or any other treatment,” says Tessa Bijelic, a doctoral student working on the project.

Text: Magnus Jando and Max Pahmp