Facial pain can be dull, intense, short-lived or chronic; on one side of your face or both. But one thing is for sure – if you suffer from facial pain, you want relief. According to the National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus, facial pain causes can include injury, nerve problems and infections. Here are some common sources of facial pain and how you can recognize them.
Anyone who has had an abscessed tooth knows that the unyielding pain is unbearable. An abscess is an infection that occurs when bacteria reach the nerve and blood vessel portion of your tooth, usually due to advanced tooth decay, gum disease or a cracked tooth. Symptoms include throbbing and persistent pain, a bad taste in your mouth, facial swelling, red gums and fever. An abscess is a serious infection, so don't wait – see your dentist immediately for treatment and pain relief if you have any symptoms of an abscess.
A dry socket is a painful condition that happens when the blood clot doesn't form properly or is displaced after a tooth is removed, according to the American Dental Association's (ADA) Mouth Healthy site. The symptoms are similar to an abscess – intense pain, swelling, bad taste and fever. Your dentist or oral surgeon will want to treat your dry socket right away.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) allow you to open and close your mouth. Anything that interferes with your TMJ working properly can cause facial pain. Habitually grinding or clenching your teeth can affect your TMJ, as can a misaligned bite. Facial pain and TMJ disorders can also result from arthritis, injury and dislocation. See your dentist if you are having any clicking, popping or pain in your joint area. The ADA says that depending on the problem, exercises, medications or a simple mouth guard might be the answer.
Headache sufferers will tell you that facial pain with a migraine or cluster headache can be intense. These headaches are usually on one side of your head and face. The pain is often focused around the eye area, although migraines sufferers may also have pain in the area of their teeth and jaw. Although you can try over-the-counter pain relievers, you should see your doctor for the most effective treatment.
Sinus infections (sinusitis) cause widespread facial pain, including aching in the upper jaw and teeth. Other symptoms are facial swelling and pressure around your eyes and cheeks, ear pain, bad breath and fever. Because the roots of your upper molar teeth are so close to the sinus cavity, the pain of sinusitis is often confused with tooth pain. Over-the-counter cold and sinus medications can afford some relief, but see your doctor if your symptoms persist.
Your trigeminal nerve, one of the largest nerves of the head, sends sensations from your face to your brain. Trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux) occurs when a blood vessel presses on the trigeminal nerve, according to the Mayo Clinic. Intermittent jolts of facial pain, ranging from mild twinges to shooting or stabbing pains, can be triggered by any mild stimulation to your face – applying makeup, brushing your teeth or touching your face. Doctors can help you manage this chronic condition with medications, injections or surgery.
After a childhood bout with chicken pox, the varicella-zoster virus lies dormant along certain nerves of your body, making you susceptible to herpes zoster (shingles) later in life. When reactivated, the virus causes intense pain and tingling on one side of your body, along with a blistering rash, headache, joint pain, fever and chills. Shingles can affect nerves in your face, producing droopy eyelids, stiff facial muscles, hearing loss, and vision or taste dysfunction. Call your doctor at the first sign of shingles – he may prescribe antiviral and strong anti-inflammatory medications to relieve your symptoms.
Because facial pain causes are so varied in nature, your best pathway to relief is to have your doctor or dentist diagnosis your problem. With an appropriate diagnosis, effective treatment for your facial pain is just around the corner.