Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a severe and chronic pain condition affecting the trigeminal nerve. There are two trigeminal nerves on either side of the head, but TN typically only affects one. The condition leads to extreme, sporadic, sudden burning or shock-like facial pain that lasts from a few seconds to a couple of minutes per episode (via NHS). These attacks can occur in quick succession for days, weeks, or months.
The trigeminal nerve has three branches that control the sensations of the face, transmitting signals to the brain from the upper, middle, and lower portions of the face, as well as the oral cavity. The onset of TN pain is typically caused by a blood vessel pressing on the root of the nerve, triggering the malfunction. In some cases, the cause could be related to a tumor or multiple sclerosis.
TN typically affects people aged 50 and older, and it’s more common in women than men. TN can go into remission, which means patients might experience no pain for long periods, sometimes even for years.
Dental traumas may be linked to TN. However, the symptoms of TN should not be confused with dental pain, which leads many to consult with dentists and undergo unnecessary dental procedures before the proper diagnosis is made (via John’s Hopkins Medicine). Treatment for TN varies and can include medications, injections, or surgery. The primary goal is to find the most effective way to manage pain with the least number of side effects, enhancing the individual’s quality of life.