It’s Not A Toothache, It’s Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a type of facial pain caused by a damaged nerve making contact with a blood vessel at the base of the brain causing the nerve to misfire. 

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, 150,000 people are diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia every year.  They also state that hypertension and Multiple Sclerosis are known risk factors.  

Most commonly affected are women over 50 and usually caused by a blood vessel irritating the facial nerve. However, in Multiple Sclerosis the nerve(s) in the brain are damaged from demylenation and tn can occur at any age.

So what is the trigeminal nerve?

The trigeminal nerve is the fifth and largest cranial nerve that supplies sensation to the face and the back half of the head.  It arises from the pons which is located in the brainstem. 

It’s not uncommon for people who first experience trigeminal neuralgia pain to see a dentist or two and even have dental work done.

In my case, trigeminal neuralgia started as a numb sensation on the right side of my face.  (You may remember I mentioned it when I thought I was having a relapse going back a month or more).  Soon after I experienced what I thought was a toothache, seen the Dentist and had a tooth extracted.  It was a cracked tooth and had to come out….only the pain never went away.  Worsening, I went back to the Dentist again….and again…nothing wrong!  For about one week it felt like the worst toothache I ever had only in my jaw and then my cheek.  It’s a throbbing intermittent pain sometimes made worse by leaning on my face laying down, cold banana smoothies, and smiling.  A couple of days later I felt the first of many random electric shocks from my cheek to my eye on the left side of my face that would break the unbreakable.  When this happens it’s known as bilateral trigeminal neuralgia which is said to be very uncommon in the general population but more common in ms.  

Atypical trigeminal neuralgia from what I’ve learned is less of an electrical shock pain and more of a chronic throbbing tooth ache type pain which I believe is what I’m dealing with now.  (Mainly in both cheeks).   

Treatment for trigeminal neuralgia consists of surgery or medication. Because it’s neuropathic pain the only drug that will alleviate the pain is an anticonvulsant.  As it was explained to me, the nerves are misfiring similar to what happens during a seizure, therefore this is how trigeminal neuralgia is treated.

It’s been a couple of weeks now and I’ve had days with little to no pain without taking the anticonvulsant medication. That being said, if the electric shock like pain were to come back, I will take it. Like everything in ms, I notice that when I’m fatigued and don’t get enough of sleep, the pain reoccurs and reoccurs more intensely. 

Thank you for reading.

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2 thoughts on “It’s Not A Toothache, It’s Trigeminal Neuralgia

  1. Jen Burris Reply

    Ouch!!! That sounds painful! I hope that never happens to me. I have terrible dental issues all thanks to genetics and medications. But if anticonvulsants help treat or prevent TN, then I am in luck. I am epileptic and take an anticonvulsant every day! I’m glad you figured out what it was!

  2. limitlessmare Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. I do hope you continue to be pain free. I’m sorry for all that you are facing and can tell you have a strong spirit! Stay strong and hug your pug 🙂

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