Unexplained Tooth Pain

Referred pain relates to a process when pain is perceived at a location other than the site of stimulus as a result of a network of interconnecting sensory systems supplying different tissues (Arendt-Nielsen  & Svensson, 2001). As such, the presence of an injury in one place of the network makes the brain interpret pain then radiates to the nerves where the network is related. Researchers suggest that the nociceptive dorsal horn and the brain stem neurons receive congruent inputs from various tissues. As a result, the higher centers in the brain cannot identify the actual source point.  Pain from muscles around the jaws (and neck)  can actually mimic a toothache; this should be suspected when there is no frank dental pathology.  While it is common that TMJ pain from muscles associated with teeth grinding, there may not be a frank muscle disorder.


Pain from neurological mechanisms is usually not referred but it can also mimic toothache.  This type of pain is often after a unpleasant dental treatment and retreatment or repeated treatment of the same tooth or same region is common as the patient chases a "dental fix" to this frustrating problem.