Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition which usually occurs on one side of the face (for example cheek, jaw) and affecting those age 50 years and above. The pain comes from the trigeminal nerve which innervates the face. The main branches of the trigeminal nerve are the maxillary nerve and mandibular nerve.
What is the Trigeminal Nerve?
The trigeminal nerve is the fifth cranial nerve and it is one of the important nerves of the face. It has three main branches which are the opthalmic nerve (innervates the area around the forehead and eyes), maxillary nerve (innervates the area around the cheek, upper lip, palate, upper teeth and gums) and mandibular nerve (innervates the area around the lower lip, lower teeth and gums, lower jaw, chin). These nerves conduct sensations from region of the face and teeth to the brain. It also controls muscles of mastication.
Trigeminal Neuralgia Symptoms
Symptoms that may be experienced by patients:
*sudden, short stabbing pain
*severe electric shock-like pain
*pain restricted only on one side of the face
*duration of pain usually lasts from a few seconds to 1-2 minutes and followed by pain free period
*pain may occur several times in a day
*has a trigger point- a small area when being stimulated, pain will be triggered
Activities Which Trigger Pain
*washing face, ablution
*shaving on the face
*face being exposed to the wind
If it is not treated, patients may experience unbearable pain. As daily activities may trigger the pain, this will lead to neglected oral hygiene and poor oral intake which may further result in weight loss/ dehydration especially if pain is uncontrolled for prolonged periods.
Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia
For treatment of trigeminal neuralgia, medication such as Carbamazepine is always used to lessen and reduce the pain. Patient should follow instructions of the doctor and not stop taking the medication even when there is no pain. Remember the medication is not a painkiller, thus patient has to take it even in the absence of pain.
Carbamazepine has a few side effects but not all patients will experience them. The side effects include dizziness, drowsiness and tiredness. These side effects usually occur in the initial phase of taking this medication and only temporary. If you develop allergies such as body rash and mouth ulcers, you should stop taking the medication immediately and consult the doctor. Other medications such as Phenytoin Sodium and Gabapentin may be used for treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. Pain killer such as Paracetamol is not effective for treating trigeminal neuralgia medication for pain alone cannot stop the pain.
If you experience any of the signs and symptoms as mentioned above, please see a dentist (dental practitioners) for proper and appropriate treatment.