Phantom tooth syndrome is an orofacial pain disorder that causes lingering pain in the teeth without a clear cause. Clinically, phantom tooth pain is similar in many essential characteristics to phantom limb syndromes experienced by amputees.
Phantom tooth syndrome can cause significant, persistent pain in the teeth that may last for months and even years. The severity of pain can vary and it may occur by itself or is triggered by something, such as hot, cold or a light touch. In many instances, pain starts after a patient has had a dental procedure, such as a root canal or filling. In addition, the tooth may even be extracted and can continue to hurt as if it were still there.
The incidence of phantom tooth pain after extraction may be as high as 3% of cases.
Treatment for phantom tooth pain can be frustrating for patients and dentists. Pain may persist in teeth that have had the nerve removed, or even in areas where a tooth has been extracted. Treatments consist of three routes of drug administration: oral, nerve blocks by injections, and intranasal applications. In an attempt to treat to the pain, many patients undergo additional unnecessary dental procedures.