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Folktandvården Skåne focuses on clinical research

Julia Lam, tandläkare

Prolonged jaw and facial pain is common in the population, between 10 to 15 percent are estimated to be affected. A new treatment method is being investigated within the framework of a research project run by Julia Lam, dentist and doctoral student at the Faculty of Odontology at Malmö University. Her dream is to eventually help a vulnerable and deprived patient group.

Julia Lam became a dentist in 2015, and in 2018 she began her doctoral studies.

– I really appreciated that we started to meet patients early on in the education. During the first semester, we were allowed to take x-rays and during the second semester, we started treating patients with gum disease. Early patient contact and practicing how to meet with and treat patients is important.

Today, Julia Lam works half-time as a dentist at Folktandvården Skåne in Hässleholm and half-time with clinical research at the Faculty of Odontology at Malmö University.

– I am very grateful. It is a great opportunity to have an academic career in research while being able to work as a dentist and have a close patient contact. I want to take the research results to the clinic. My hope is that we will succeed in developing a treatment method that can effectively treat chronic facial and jaw pain, says Julia Lam.

It is mainly women who are affected. Some people get so bad that quality of life is affected; they become limited in everyday life and may have difficulties working and studying.

– The pain usually occurs in the jaw muscles or the jaw joint, and those who suffer have often had problems for a long time. Some get headaches, have difficulties laughing, chewing or eating, and in some people the jaws lock.

Internet-based pain school

Julia Lams research project is about comparing and evaluating two treatment methods for prolonged facial and jaw pain. Participants get to do a clinical examination of the chewing system and an examination of the brain with a magnetic camera, after which they are divided into two groups; one that gets traditional treatment with acrylic splints and one that will have access to a new internet-based pain school.

– Queues for specialists are usually long and the longer you go with pain, the more difficult it is to treat it. We want to know if an internet-based pain school can be an equally good or better method than splints.

The traditional method of splints is a relatively passive treatment, while the pain school wants to stimulate participation and self-care. The patient may, for example, write a diary and learn more about what pain is and what can cause it.

– It will be a help to consciously becoming aware of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that are associated with the pain, says Julia Lam.

The new internet-based treatment method based on cognitive behavioral theory is not available in everyday care yet, it has to be tested and evaluated scientifically first. The recruitment of patients is done by a dental team at the clinic Fäladstorget in Lund in Folktandvården Skåne. A questionnaire identifies patients who may be eligible to participate in the research project.

– They answer questions about pain when chewing, if they feel pain in temples and jaws once a week or more often, and if they have problems with locks and snaps in the jaws. If the answer is yes to one or more questions, the patient can be included in the study. The hope is that the pain school will help patients improve their pain and stress management.

The brain is affected

In chronic pain, the function and structure of the brain are affected. For example, the volume of the gray matter, where many of the brain’s complex functions reside, decreases.

– In our project we want to see if the brain's function and structure can be restored by treatment, Julia Lam says.

The internet-based pain school has been developed in collaboration between bite physiologists at Malmö University and registered psychologists at Psykologpartners AB.

– The research study relies on multidisciplinary collaboration and I hope that we will be able to contribute with new knowledge of the central mechanisms of chronic pain and also help to close some knowledge gaps. I also hope that the new knowledge is in the everyday life of the clinics so that it becomes useful for patients.

Initiate a new research group

In chronic pain, the function and structure of the brain are affected. For example, the volume of the gray matter, where many of the brain’s complex functions reside, decreases.

– In our project we want to see if the brain's function and structure can be restored by treatment, Julia Lam says.

The internet-based pain school has been developed in collaboration between bite physiologists at Malmö University and registered psychologists at Psykologpartners AB.

– The research study relies on multidisciplinary collaboration and I hope that we will be able to contribute with new knowledge of the central mechanisms of chronic pain and also help to close some knowledge gaps. I also hope that the new knowledge is in the everyday life of the clinics so that it becomes useful for patients.

Footnote: Per Alstergren, Professor and Specialist at the Department of Orofacial Pain and Jaw Function, Faculty of Odontology, Malmö University, is responsible for the research project. The research project is a collaboration between Malmö University, Folktandvården Skåne, Specialiserad smärtrehabilitering, and Bild- och Funktionsdiagnostiskt Centrum at Skåne University Hospital in Lund and Aarhus University in Denmark.

About Julia Lam

Julia Lam, tandläkare

Age: 26

Lives: Malmö

Works: Dentist and doctoral student at Folktandvården Skåne in collaboration with Malmö University

I started doing research because: My interest in the research process started while doing my master’s report.

A scientific break-through I would like to see: The answer to why some individuals develop chronic pail while others do not

Enjoys: Experience good food at a restaurant or in the kitchen at home

Worried by: That it takes long time for individuals with chronic pain to get adequate treatment

Driven by: Curiosity and good coffee

Contact

Office for Clinical Studies

Östra Hamngatan 26
SE-411 09 Göteborg

 

Phone: +46 (0)31 757 41 75

E-mail: kliniskastudier@vr.se

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