What Is Phantom Tooth Pain?

Have you ever felt pain in a tooth that is no longer in your mouth? If so, you may be experiencing phantom tooth pain. Here, we’ll explain what phantom tooth pain is, what the symptoms are, what causes it, and how you can treat it.

girl holding her jaw with phantom tooth pain

What Is Phantom Tooth Pain?

Phantom tooth pain, also known as atypical facial pain or atypical odontalgia, is chronic and constant pain in your teeth or in an area where teeth have been pulled or extracted. You may have heard of a similar phenomenon when people with amputated limbs still feel pain where the limb used to be. Over time, the pain can even extend to other parts of the mouth or the jaw.

What Are the Symptoms of Phantom Tooth Pain?

The pain associated with phantom tooth pain is often described as a persistent aching or throbbing at the site of extraction. It’s different from regular tooth pain because an average tooth pain usually has an identifiable cause such as injury to the tooth or tooth decay or gum disease and can be solved in a specific treatment. Unlike regular tooth pain, phantom tooth pain is not affected by hot or cold food or drink, or grinding or chewing. Sometimes the pain is intense and severe, while other times it is mild. It may take a while to diagnose the issue because there are no real external signs of pain and therefore diagnosis is done mostly through observation over a time and by eliminating any other oral health issue.

What Causes Phantom Tooth Pain?

Phantom tooth pain is caused by a root canal or extraction or other dental procedure such as these. It is thought to be a type of neuropathic pain disorder and therefore is believed to be due to nerve endings sending signals to the patient’s mind telling it that it feels pain. This error in processing the pain between the nerves and brain means that phantom tooth pain won’t go away unless treated by a dental professional.

What Is the Treatment for Phantom Tooth Pain?

Treatment for phantom tooth pain is typically done in the form of medication. Because phantom tooth pain is a neurological disorder, any type of topical solution or surgical procedure won’t do anything to stop the pain. Medications like antidepressants, anticonvulsants, narcotics, and NMDA receptor antagonists have known to improve the pain associated with phantom tooth pain. There are also some non medication treatments like acupuncture and nerve stimulation.

If you think you may be experiencing phantom tooth pain or have more questions, please contact us today!
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