Dr. Ben Lambeth, DDS & Dr. Megumi Lambeth, DDS

310 East Main St., Suite 335 | Carrboro, NC 27510

Is Phantom Tooth Pain Normal After Dental Surgery?

If you’ve recently gotten dental surgery and now feel a persistent pain in the place where the oral surgery was performed, you might be suffering from phantom tooth pain. Here, we’ll explain what that is, what symptoms are associated with it, whether it’s normal to experience after dental surgery, how you diagnose it, and what your treatment options are for phantom tooth pain.

girl holding her jaw in pain from oral surgery

What Is Phantom Tooth Pain?

Phantom tooth pain is a constant, chronic, lingering pain in your mouth in an area where you just had dental work done. For example, after an extraction you feel pain in the space where there is no longer a tooth. This phenomenon is similar to its more commonly known cousin phantom limb syndrome, where amputees feel pain where their amputated limb used to be. This is not a physical issue, but a neurological one.

Is Phantom Tooth Pain Normal After Dental Surgery?

Phantom tooth pain most often comes about after dental surgery. Whether it’s a root canal, extraction, or filling, phantom tooth pain is the result of a damaged or dysfunctioning nerve that sends signs to the brain saying that there is pain in a tooth that may no longer be there.

What Are the Symptoms of Phantom Tooth Pain?

The common symptoms of tooth pain are described as mild to severe throbbing or aching tooth pain. The pain can vary from one end of the spectrum to the other throughout the span of a single day. While the phantom tooth pain may start in the one area, it can also spread throughout to other parts of your mouth and even your jaw. Phantom tooth pain symptoms differ from those of a typical tooth ache because the specific cause of pain is not identifiable. With normal tooth pain, there is often a specific cause that leads to the specific symptoms such as tooth decay, gum disease, or a knocked out tooth.

How Do You Diagnose Phantom Tooth Pain?

Because there is no one identifiable cause of phantom tooth pain, diagnosis can take a while because there is no external symptom. To diagnose phantom tooth pain, a dental health professional will observe the patient over time and work through eliminating any other dental health issues. Misdiagnosis is not an uncommon occurrence.

What Is the Treatment for Phantom Tooth Pain?

Because phantom tooth pain is not the result of an identifiable, physical oral health issue, treatment often means managing the pain by medication. There are a number of antidepressants, steroids, NMDA receptor antagonists, anticonvulsants, and narcotics that can manage the pain, while treatments like acupuncture and nerve stimulation have also shown that they can help diminish the phantom tooth pain.

If you think you may be experiencing phantom tooth pain, contact us today!

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