woman holding her cheek in pain

Trigeminal Neuralgia-Is your pain tooth pain or nerve pain?

Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition in which pain is felt by only one side of the face – more commonly, by the right side. Sensory signals send the feeling of pain from the face to the brain through the trigeminal nerve, or cranial nerve V. Patients describe the pain they feel as a stabbing sensation or electrical pulses, triggered by anything touching the face or teeth – including shaving, applying make-up, or even the touch of a Florida breeze. In some cases, the pain is so severe that it limits patients from performing daily tasks involving the oral cavity, such as eating or drinking and brushing their teeth.

There is a diverse list of common causes to this neuropathic condition from facial trauma and tumors, to multiple sclerosis. Some causes of trigeminal neuralgia remain unknown – in such cases, ligation, or cutting of the nerve, may be the only possible treatment. Alternative and less invasive treatment include Botox, acupuncture, and meditation. If trigeminal neuralgia is caused by blood vessels pressing against the nerve, the treatment option involves inserting a Teflon cushion to separate the vessels from the nerve.


a girl holding her cheek

Dentists play an important role in determining if a patient’s pain is dental or nerve related. By examination of the oral cavity (both visually and via x-rays), Dr. Monteiro would first rule out tooth hypersensitivity, fractures and caries, or other primary tooth causes of pain. If the pain is dental related, root canal treatments or tooth extractions may provide quick control of the discomfort. Post-operatory visits will be required to monitor healing and track changes in symptoms. Dr. Rachel Monteiro says “I have more frequently encountered patients being treated for neuralgia or other nerve conditions when in fact it was tooth related after all.”

For patients who are diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, the River Oaks Dental team can provide tips to minimize flares caused by oral hygiene regimens. For example, extra-soft manual toothbrush may be better tolerated than power brushes. Alternatives to brushing, such as prescription rinses and soft interdental picks, can be used during periods of severe pain when the pressures are intolerable.

If you are living in facial pain and discomfort, call River Oaks Dental at 904-348-0416 to schedule an appointment. We will either discover and treat the source of the pain, or direct you towards a medical professional who can work with us to find a diagnosis and create a proper treatment plan.

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