Is this the start of Trigeminal Neuralgia?

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So a few weeks ago i finally went to the dentist after having some different symptoms for a while. The main thing that was troubling me was jaw pain, stiffness and occasional locking that has been ongoing for at least a year, maybe longer. I cant open my mouth very wide, sometimes not even wide enough to bite a sandwich, and when i have opened it wide i cant control the closing of it (it almost snaps or clicks shut). I assumed he would tell me this was TMJ disorder and give me some exercises or something to do to help. However i did explain to him that i also get an aching sensation in what feels like all of my front teeth on my lower jaw every night. Sometimes i can struggle to get to sleep with it, and like i said its not just one tooth that aches, its at least 4 or 5 of my front teeth. The dentist checked my teeth and advised i need a filling but he cant open my jaw wide enough to be able to do it, so hes referred me to the dental hospital. He then did a test where he placed his thumb in my mouth on the inside of my cheek and a finger on the outside of my cheek and lightly pinched, and honestly i almost jumped out of the chair. It was a sharp pain and i had it when he tested both sides. Ive read about trigeminal neuralgia and i dont think i have many of the symptoms but i have a feeling the dentist might suspect it to be that, although he didnt say so to me. Ive experienced severe, sharp electric shock type pains in both sides of my face on 2 occasions - one time i was drinking wine and it happened every time i took a sip for about half an hour or so, the other time i wasnt doing anything in particular. The pain was almost right under my ear on the side of my face, behind the angle of the jaw and shot downwards, but again, this pain isnt a regular thing, its happened twice in about a year and thats it.

The only other thing i can think to report is that i do quite often get pain in both sides of my face when i first eat a mouthful of food, although i wouldnt describe it as electric shock pain. Imagine you eat a sour sweet and you get that feeling in the sides of your face that makes you squirm a bit... its like that only at a really intense level that actually feels very painful and takes my breath away for a few seconds, and it happens no matter what it is i'm eating, whether its sour or not (only for the first mouthful though and then i get used to it).

Has anyone else experienced any of this - the aching across multiple teeth, the tightness in the jaw and the very occasional sharp pain? And what did it turn out to be?

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4 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Lauren!

    I’d say it sounds very much like TMJ and not so much like TN.

    What makes you suspect your dentist would suspect TN without saying so?

    Overall you describe classic TMJ symptoms. The fact that you experience pain on both sides of your face (including your teeth) would also speak against TN, as this is something very rare, although not impossible.

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    • Posted

      id agree mainly because of pain on both sides of the face. TN is much more an electric shock type spasm (sometimes lasting seconds sometimes minutes) rather than an ache - at least in my experience. Id get to a specialist quickly - i had s tooth out before my dentist realised it was a tooth thing! Good luck.

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    • Posted

      Thankyou both for your replies. Obviously i'm hoping its not TN so your responses are really reassuring. I just had this idea that the aching across multiple teeth rather than just one could be pain along a nerve, and looking at diagrams the teeth that are causing me pain are supplied by a small branch off the mandibular part of the trigeminal nerve. Plus when i tried to search what the test where he pinched my cheek is testing for, a lot of the articles that came up where about TN, although to be fair none of them mentioned that test in particular and i know from studying pain as part of my degree that "neurogenic" pain is usually more sharp and electric shock like rather than an ache.

      I suppose i will wait for my appointment at the dental hospital to come through and see what they say there, but i do feel better after reading your responses, so thankyou again.

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    • Posted

      Aching across multiple teeth is not something special for TN. That you have it on both sides of/across the face, is I get it from you referring to your front teeth (in plural), would rather suggest it's not TN, as theres a right and a left trigeminal nerve, and your pain seem to know no boundary. 😉

      The pinch test your doctor made is probably more of a diagnostic tool for TMJ. When diagnosing for TN, your doctor will (or should) routinely check out your jaw area, but I think this is generally to rule out TMJ, as you'll typically get no pain response of this if TN. (If you don't happen to have a TN trigger zone just in this area, but then you'll just have it on one side of your face.)

      Anyway - good luck, and hope you don't have TN! ;D

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