Phantom pain, also known as atypical odontalgia, is a unique type of chronic tooth pain that typically occurs after tooth extraction. Often this pain persists for a few days but gradually wears away as the extraction site starts to heal.
Usually, phantom tooth pain occurs when the brain and the impacted nerve communicate during the extraction process. This means the nerve endings in the extraction site send signals to the patient’s brain. Often the pressure applied while luxating the tooth can have some side effects, which usually include mild to moderate tooth pain. (1)
Phantom tooth pain typically occurs at the site of extraction and can radiate throughout the mouth, face, and jaw. Sometimes phantom tooth pain can be associated with root canal treatment or any other dental treatment as well.
It usually takes time to diagnose phantom pain as there are no external signs that may indicate the exact location. The diagnosis is typically made over time by the process of elimination of any physical cause that ma is causing the dental pain. (2)
Phantom tooth pain is often a frustrating condition for both the patient and the dentist. Moreover, it can lead to multiple dental treatments that may not relieve the pain.
What are the characteristics of phantom tooth pain?
Typical tooth pain is usually intermittent. However, phantom tooth pain is often constant and throbbing. Atypical odontalgia was named phantom tooth pain because of the uncertainty regarding its origin. Moreover, phantom tooth pain has atypical characteristics as compared to regular tooth pain. (3)
Furthermore, the patients cannot locate phantom tooth pain in the moth as compared to typical tooth pain that is caused by a broken tooth or tooth decay.
Phantom tooth pain is often related to the phenomenon of phantom leg pain, where the amputees feel pain at the location where their imputed limb used to be. It is mostly associated with a neurological issue that leads to such experience.
Some of the common symptoms of phantom tooth pain are listed below –
- Mild to severe dull aching or throbbing pain
- The intensity of pain can vary throughout the day
- Pain occurs with no identifiable cause such as gum disease, tooth decay or broken teeth
- It is not associated with sensitivity to hot or cold food (4)
- It may or may not be relieved by local anesthesia
- The pain can persist in teeth that have been treated previously
What is the treatment for phantom tooth pain?
As mentioned above, phantom tooth pain has no identifiable source. Moreover, it is not associated with a physical oral health issue. It doesn’t typically get better by a specific dental treatment. Therefore, the treatment of phantom pain usually includes pain management using prescribed pain relievers.
Some of the medicines used to relieve phantom tooth pain include antidepressants, steroids, anticonvulsants, and narcotics to manage the pain. Additionally, nerve stimulation therapy and acupuncture can also be used to help subside the phantom tooth pain. (5)
If you are experiencing a similar toot pain with no identifiable cause in the mouth, consult your dentist immediately to rule out any possible reason. Moreover, follow the treatment course to manage the pain effectively.