Believe it or not, but toothache can jump from one tooth to another. What started as a throbbing in your canine yesterday can easily become an ache in your molar today. This phenomenon is referred to by dentists as "referred pain". However, though it may seem like the dental issue is jumping from tooth to tooth, this isn't actually what is happening. Only one tooth is affected.
What Is Referred Pain?
Referred pain is also known as heterotopic pain and can affect any part of the body, not just the oral region. Although pain may be felt in an upper right molar, the dental issue may actually be affecting a lower right, lateral incisor. In the past, this phenomenon often made it difficult for dentists to identify the culprit tooth. But today, dentists are well aware of this problem and have developed ways of overcoming it.
Why Does It Happen?
Unlike the nerves of your fingers or toes for example, which allow for sensation to be felt by each one individually, your teeth share one major nerve called the trigeminal nerve. This nerve supplies sensation to the upper and lower teeth via separate branches. Because of this, toothache can often seem to shift from one tooth to another, making it difficult to pinpoint the dental issue. However, referred pain rarely moves from one side of your face to the other. Instead, pain tends to remain on one side of the face and can sometimes migrate to the neck, tonsils, shoulders and head.
Does All Dental Pain Work This Way?
This issue is usually confined to issues which affect the pulp of a tooth, which is essentially the nerve inside the tooth. However, pain from periapical abscesses, abscesses which start at the tip of a tooth's root, generally does not move in this way and instead is confined to the affected tooth. Pain from dentures, such as pain caused by ulcers for example, also does not move around the same way toothache pain does.
How Do Dentists Locate the Affected Tooth in This Case?
Before taking any action to remove a tooth, your dentist should perform a thorough examination of your teeth. This involves tapping on your teeth and using temperature to identify the affected tooth. An x-ray may also help to pinpoint the source of your pain.
If you have been experiencing a toothache that seems that move around on one side of your face, ensure you inform your dentist at your next dental appointment. This will make it easier for your dentist to make a diagnosis and treat the problem as quickly as possible. For more information about teeth, dentures, or implants, contact a local dentist.