Phantom tooth pain—also variously known by the technical names “atypical facial pain,” “atypical odontalgia,” and “neuropathic orofacial pain,” is one of the most mysterious conditions in the field of oral health. Chronic pain in a tooth or teeth is the defining characteristic. However, unlike the typical toothache, there is no evidence of decay, periodontal disease, injury, or other identifiable cause.
Constant throbbing or aching in a tooth, teeth, or extraction site that is persistent and unremitting is how phantom tooth pain is usually described. In addition, hot or cold sensations do not significantly affect the pain, and even local anesthetic often cannot relieve it. The intensity ranges from mild to severe.
What Causes It & Who Is Most Likely to Get It?
It is theorized that phantom tooth pain is caused by changes in parts of the brain that process pain signals, causing a persistent sensation of pain even when an identifiable source of pain does not exist. Why this happens, however, is not known. Genetics, age, and gender seem to play a role, with women and those older than middle-age being the most affected.
How Is It Diagnosed & Treated?
If a review of the patient’s history, a thorough clinical examination, and radiographic assessment cannot identify the source of pain, a diagnosis of phantom tooth pain is often made. Various medications have been used in an attempt to treat it, with tricyclic antidepressants being the most common. Generally, treatment is successful in reducing the pain but not eliminating it completely.
If you have any symptoms of phantom tooth pain, be sure to contact us at North Richland Hills Dentistry right away so Dr. Desai can evaluate your specific situation and help you determine the best course of action.