Phantom Tooth Pain

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Phantom Tooth Pain
Phantom Tooth Pain (Image: Dan Brian Gerona: Flickr.com)

Phantom tooth pain is an orofacial pain disorder that causes lingering pain in the teeth without a clear cause. Treatment for phantom tooth pain can be frustrating for patients and dentists. Pain may persist in teeth that have had the nerve removed, or even in areas where a tooth has been extracted. Unnecessary dental procedures may have been performed without helping the pain. Phantom tooth pain is diagnosed by ruling out other causes for the pain.

Other Names

Other names for phantom tooth pain include phantom pain syndrome, neuropathic oralfacial pain and atypical odontalgia.

Symptoms

Tooth pain that may be slight or severe. Tooth pain triggered by hot, cold or pressure. Tooth pain that lingers after a dental procedure. Tooth pain that starts at the site of a dental procedure and spreads throughout one side of the mouth or to the whole mouth. Tooth pain present when examination and X-rays do not show any damage or decay in the tooth.

Causes

Phantom tooth pain is often triggered by a dental procedure, such as a filling, root canal or tooth extraction. It is caused by damage to or dysfunction in a nerve that triggers the sensation of pain.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of phantom tooth pain is based on eliminating any other causes for the persistent pain. People with phantom tooth pain may seek the help of a neuropathic pain specialist. Your doctor will perform a physical examination and question you about any dental procedures. She will eliminate any other causes for the pain and may order tests such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan.

Treatment

Treatment for phantom tooth pain depends on whether the pain is originating in the peripheral nerves (nerves in the limbs, trunk, face and mouth) or in the central nervous system (the brain and spine). Treatment for peripheral nerve pain can include local anesthetic or steroid injections or topical pain-relieving creams. If the pain involves the central nervous system, medications such as anti-depressants, anti-seizure drugs or narcotic pain relievers may be prescribed.

Some doctors will also recommend complementary or alternative medicine, such as acupuncture.

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