standard-title Identifying Neuropathic Pain

Identifying Neuropathic Pain

One of the most confusing and most difficult disorders to treat is neuropathic pain disorders. These are typically chronic and arise from the brain and nerves of the head, face and neck. You might suffer from neuropathic pain if you have experienced the following:

  • Reoccurring toothaches
  • Undiagnosed facial pain
  • Numerous treatments that result in only temporary or no pain relief
  • Seen numerous doctors for various treatments
  • Pain triggered by light touch or normal function
  • Have been told the pain is psychological


If this is the case, you might be suffering from a neuropathic pain disorder. Thankfully, your dentist may have experience in treating these complicated conditions, just as we can at Craniofacial Pain & Dental Sleep Center of Georgia.


Finding a Diagnosis

Orofacial neuropathies derive from a number of causes depending on the symptoms experienced, which causes the diagnostic process to be different. For the three most common types of neuropathic pain conditions, diagnostic procedures may include tests, examinations and considerations.

Trigeminal Neuralgia: Beyond evaluating symptoms, health history and performing a physical examination of the affected area, tests might be recommended to identify medical problems. As with many pain conditions where the exact cause is unknown, trigeminal neuralgia is often diagnosed by eliminating other serious medical problems. No single test can reliably identify all cases of trigeminal neuralgia, so diagnosis is dependent on an accurate interpretation of a patient’s signs and symptoms.

Atypical Odontalgia: Diagnosis of atypical neuralgias is difficult and relies on ruling out other possible causes, just like with trigeminal neuralgia. Along with a clear demonstration of atypical odontalgia symptoms, a doctor may recommend dental X-rays, a MRI or a CT scan to eliminate other possible conditions. Atypical odontalgia, or phantom tooth pain, is often only diagnosed after nerve blocks fail to reduce pain and if test results return no positive diagnoses.

Oral Nerve Injury: Nerve damage is typically diagnosed with one or more of the following tests. An electromyogram (EMG) records the muscle’s electrical activity, with reduced activity suggesting injury to the nerve. A nerve conduction study measures the passing of electrical signals by placing electrodes at two points on the body. And an MRI, or MRA may produce a 3D image of the nerve detailed enough to identify damage.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: This complex neuropathic pain condition cannot be diagnosed with a single test, however a number of tests and scans can provide clues to a positive identification. An MRI scan can provide images of changes to tissues. Sympathetic nervous system tests may identify changes to skin temperature, blood flow, sweat or other disturbances to autonomic functions. Changes in bone and blood circulation can be seen with a triple-phase bone scan. An X-ray can identify loss of minerals in bones common in later stages of the condition.

To learn more about neuropathic pain, please contact Craniofacial Pain & Dental Sleep Center of Georgia.