Does your face hurt? Severe or chronic facial nerve pain can affect the sufferer’s daily life, relationships, and overall wellbeing. Facial pain encompasses every type of pain in the face, from a simple sinus headache to more involved and chronic conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia. Facial nerve pain refers to pain that originates in your facial nerves. Here’s what you should know.
What is facial nerve pain?
Facial nerve pain is most commonly related to the trigeminal nerve, though we discuss some of the other more common causes below. Three branches of the trigeminal nerve are responsible for enervating various parts of the face. These include that:
- Upper (ophthalmic) branch: Enervates the scalp, forehead, and front of the head
- Middle (maxillary) branch: Enervates the cheek, upper jaw, top lip, teeth and gums, and the side of the nose
- Lower (mandibular) branch: Enervates the lower jaw, teeth and gums, and bottom lip
Facial nerve pain is pain referred by these nerves to the brain from any of these areas.
Atypical facial pain vs. trigeminal neuralgia is another story. Atypical facial pain travels the same route as trigeminal neuralgia but exhibits different characteristics.
Also known as persistent idiopathic facial pain (PIFP), this pain can be continuous and long lasting. Unlike the short bursts of pain that are typical of trigeminal neuralgia, atypical facial pain may be more of a burning, severe ache or crushing sensation in the affected areas of your face.
What causes facial nerve pain?
Understanding the sometimes-complex causes of facial nerve pain is an important first step in treatment.
Simply treating the pain, although important to relieve suffering, is not enough. Identifying the underlying cause can offer a more targeted and successful course of pain treatment.
Sinus infection usually comes with excess fluid that places pressure on the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve.
Some patients report a feeling of fullness surrounding their eyes and across their forehead, but this can also press on the facial nerves, leading to pain.
H3: Trigeminal neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia is a serious chronic pain condition that can affect the daily life of sufferers. Pain from this disorder can affect any area of the face, head, neck, and shoulders.
Trigeminal neuralgia may be caused by compression or damage to the trigeminal nerve, resulting in breathtaking sharp pain, like electric shocks. Pain may last for seconds or hours and is unpredictable in nature.
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD) is a disorder that may result in compression of the trigeminal nerve. Grinding and clenching of the teeth and jaw builds up the masseter muscle, which can then place pressure on the trigeminal nerve.
This pressure results in facial nerve pain that can spread to other parts of the face. Tension in the jaw and compression of the nerve may also cause TMJ headaches.
Facial nerve pain after tooth extraction
While a tooth extraction is a common and straightforward procedure, there can be lingering facial nerve pain after tooth extraction. This may be due to decay that necessitated the extraction in the first place.
Maxillary nerve pain
Maxillary nerve pain is facial nerve pain that cuts across the cheek, upper jaw, and top lip. The teeth and gums and the side of the nose may also be involved.
Mandibular nerve pain
Mandibular nerve pain may occur as a direct result of the compression of the lower branch of the trigeminal nerve. Pain may also occur inside the mouth.
Bell’s palsy is paralysis of a facial nerve that causes drooping and lack of control in various parts of the face.
The exact causes of this condition are unknown but may include a herpes infection that lies dormant for a period before infecting the cells around the facial nerves. Any nerve damage that occurs can cause pain, and the level of paralysis depends on the extent of the damage. Facial nerve pain (and numbness) can occur in the ear, face, neck, or tongue.
What facial nerve pain treatments do dentists use?
Your dentist will first work with your doctor to diagnose the cause of your facial nerve pain before beginning treatment. Any un