Trigeminal nerve pain or trigeminal neuralgia is a type of orofacial pain that affects the nerve transmitting sensations from your face to your brain.
For most people, these sensations are relatively harmless, but for people with trigeminal neuralgia, everyday actions like brushing their teeth or rubbing their cheek can result in searing, unbearable pain.
What Does Trigeminal Nerve Pain Feel Like?
Diagnosing nerve pain conditions can be very challenging, partly because they can be hard for the patient to describe, and because most patients and their doctors are looking for an underlying cause, rather than recognizing that the nerve itself is the problem.
Some of the symptoms of trigeminal nerve pain include:
- Unexplained pain when brushing teeth, chewing, speaking or touching the face.
- Jabbing or shooting pain. Some patients describe a feeling similar to electric shock.
- Acute onset pain that lasts a few seconds or minutes.
- Chronic attacks that may last days or weeks.
- A burning sensation or a spasm like pain.
- Pain that is limited to the cheeks, jaw, gums, lips and teeth. Rarely including the forehead and eyes.
- Pain may be localized in one area of the face, or more generalized over a larger area.
- Typically, pain becomes more frequent and intense over time.
Whatever the symptoms the patient is experiencing, they can be triggered by activities like shaving, brushing teeth, putting on makeup, eating or drinking, or even a breeze on the patient’s face. Since it is impossible to avoid these activities, patients who experience this type of pain must seek treatment to get relief.
What Causes Trigeminal Nerve Pain?
The most common cause for trigeminal nerve pain is pressure on the nerve, which can be caused by a blood vessel or by something more serious, like a tumor or lesions on the brain. In some cases, trigeminal nerve pain can be related to a demyelinating disease like multiple sclerosis.
Finally, some people experience trigeminal nerve pain after having had a stroke, or after they have had surgery on their brain to treat another condition.
Treatment for Trigeminal Nerve Pain
Trigeminal nerve pain falls within the scope of orofacial pain services that dentists can help treat, and it is usually helpful for a patient to be referred to a trained professional for diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosis typically involves taking a detailed medical history, as well as a physical examination to determine where the pain is and how it is triggered. Imaging tests such as an MRI can be helpful to determine if there is any neurological condition that is causing the condition. In cases where such a condition exists, treating the neurological condition can help to alleviate or even eliminate the trigeminal neuralgia.
Medications for trigeminal nerve pain may include painkillers, anti-convulsive medications, antispasmodic medications and Botox, which can stabalize the nerve and eliminate symptoms temporarily.
Surgery, either to remove blood vessels causing pressure on the nerve, or on the root of the trigeminal nerve in the brain is sometimes required in cases where medications and other therapies do not provide relief.
For more information on treatment for trigeminal nerve pain or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Tom Shackleton, please contact us at 403-242-9952 today.