Orofacial Pain Clinic gives patient "priceless" gift of living pain-free

Sign and front desk of the University of Minnesota's TMD, Orofacial Pain and Dental Sleep Medicine Clinic

“It was like a cluster of fireworks going off on the side of my head for two to three minutes at a time. I felt like my face was burning off.”

That’s how University of Minnesota School of Dentistry patient and Edina, MN, resident Jim Deanovic describes the pain he experienced for nearly two decades.

To alleviate it, he underwent three microvascular decompression brain procedures during which his skull was opened and a sponge was inserted between the nerve and artery that were triggering his pain.

Unfortunately, despite these procedures typically being the most effective treatment for his condition, Deanovic continued to suffer.

To make matters worse, his physicians told him his pain was idiopathic; it had no known cause or cure. Their only suggestion: more pain medication, which often required trips to a nearby emergency room for IV treatments.

“I was pretty much non-functioning at that point,” Deanovic recalled. “Even with the help of three drugs, I had to be extremely careful not to trigger it. A single drop of water or wind hitting my face could make the pain unbearable.”

That pain meant he had to give up his three favorite pastimes: hunting, fishing and golf. He also had to give up work.

Donald Nixdorf headshot
Donald Nixdorf, DDS, MS

Thankfully, Deanovic was referred to Donald Nixdorf, DDS, MS, director of the Division of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and Orofacial Pain at the School of Dentistry.

Deanovic could tell, right from the start, that things were going to be different with Nixdorf. The diagnostic questions he and his resident asked were much more in-depth than the questions Deanovic had been asked by previous physicians. Then, after a bit of research, Nixdorf explained how he believed he could relieve Deanovic’s pain, first by adjusting his medications. That helped, but Deanovic still suffered.

“I had been suffering for seventeen years by that point, and it was the first time I felt I was being presented with a solution, “ said Deanovic. “It was comforting, and life-changing.”

After three months of the medication adjustments Nixdorf recommended, Deanovic  experienced some relief. A few months later, Nixdorf suggested Botox injections.

By the fifth day of that treatment, thanks in part to medications he was still taking, Deanovic was nearly pain-free. Over the next few months, he weaned off the medications and has remained pain-free ever since.

“If it weren’t for Dr. Nixdorf, my life would essentially be over because of the pain,” said Deanovic. “I have my life back.”

An orofacial pain specialist assesses a patient, while a second specialist sits at a computer in the background

In appreciation, Deanovic has given generously to the School of Dentistry's Orofacial Pain Endowed Fund, including a fully-met match for all gifts to the fund through December 2021. He and his wife hoped to inspire fellow patients to support the program as he had.

“Dr. Nixdorf and staff have helped me enjoy precious time with my wife, and our kids and grandkids,” Deanovic said. “That’s priceless. So we wanted to do what we could to provide comfort to others by giving back to the school. There’s nothing sweeter than that!”

To learn more about the School’s Orofacial Pain Endowed Fund and how you can donate, contact Chief Development Officer Emily Best at 612-802-6986 or [email protected].