Last week we briefly discussed atypical odontalgia in your patients. As mentioned before, atypical odontalgia is often referred to as atypical facial pain, phantom tooth pain or neuropathic orofacial pain. It is something that we need to be aware of with our patients because it can lead to furth chronic pain. After reading about atypical odontalgia, can you recognize this condition in your patients? Let’s take a closer look at how to identify atypical odontalgia.

Identifying the causes of atypical odontalgia

What we know about atypical odontalgia is that the cause is often unknown, which often causes clinicians to call the pain “idiopathic.” But the pain that is experienced can be caused by a variety of factors including genetic predisposition, age and sex. 

We also know that this condition is more common in women than men and that it is most often found in middle-aged or older age groups. In fact, there is even a connection between atypical odontalgia and depression or anxiety. Although, that connection remains unclear at this point. 

Additionally, we know that dysfunction or “short-circuiting” of the nerves that carry pain sensations from the teeth and jaws is triggered by some type of dental or oral manipulation. Going beyond that, we also know that areas of the brain that process pain signals appear to undergo molecular and biochemical changes. This can result in a persistent sensation of pain in the absence of an identifiable cause. 

Diagnosing atypical odontalgia

To properly diagnose atypical odontalgia, it is important to complete a physical examination of the head, face and neck. This will help you to pinpoint the location of the pain. It will also help to determine if other medical factors, such as a compressed nerve or tumor, could be the source. 

You may also need to check for loss of feeling in the face or loss of sensation in the face or loss of sensation in the mouth to rule out damage to the trigeminal nerve. This is the nerve that controls sensation in the front of the face. 

Additionally, an MRI scan can help to provide a better view of the patient’s head and neck to rule out other conditions that can cause facial pain. Those conditions might include trigeminal neuralgia, multiple sclerosis or tumors. Lastly, an MRA scan can also be used to identify any abnormality of the blood vessels in the head and neck. Results from an MRA scan can reveal if an abnormal blood vessel is pressing on a nerve and is the source of the facial pain.

Contact my office today to learn more and find out how you can further help your patients with atypical odontalgia.