If you are experiencing facial pain, you made the wise decision to learn more about it. Facial pain causes discomfort and is associated with many underlying causes that can be difficult to navigate on your own. We are here to help you understand facial pain, what its most common sources are, and what you can do about it.
Facial pain is a unifying term for anyone who experiences discomfort in their face, cheeks or forehead. Since this refers to a symptom and not a specific condition, it has many potential underlying causes.
Whether facial pain is on one side of your face or both (also called unilateral and bilateral) can vary in severity and how long the pain lasts. Some facial pains may be temporary and resolve completely independently, while others may have chronic pain that requires professional treatment.
Potential causes of facial pain may include:
oral health problems
Underlying medical conditions
Headache and migraine
Understanding potential causes of facial pain is a vital first step towards getting effective treatment and guiding potentially beneficial lifestyle changes. Appropriate treatment steps, medications, and behavior to manage and reduce your pain will depend on its source. We recommend talking to your dentist or medical professional for a specialist diagnosis.
Read on below for our overview of some of the most common sources of facial pain.
A dental abscess refers to an infection of the soft interior of your tooth known as the pulp. This happens when bacteria infiltrate the sensitive nerves and blood vessels of your teeth from tooth decay, gum disease, or injury.
Symptoms of an abscessed tooth may include:
zoning, persistent or chewing pain
Tooth or gum sensitivity
swollen or red gums
bad taste in your mouth
This condition will not heal on its own. If you believe you may have a dental abscess, it is very important to make an appointment with your dentist right away. Fortunately, they are experts at treating this condition, preventing it from recurring, and helping you manage your pain.
If you have recently had a tooth extracted and are experiencing pain, you may be experiencing a condition known as dry socket. This happens when blood doesn’t clot properly in your teething position, exposing your nerves and bone.
Dry socket symptoms can include:
Radiating or persistent pain after tooth extraction
Visible loss of blood clot around the extraction site
bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
Proper coagulation contributes to bone growth around the affected area, so it’s important to manage your pain as well as treat it for your health. Call your dentist to reduce your pain and determine if you need additional treatment.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD)
The mechanism that connects your jaw to your skull and provides mobility is your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Conditions that affect the functioning of this structure are known as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).
TMD symptoms can include:
Pain or discomfort in or around your jaw when chewing or talking
limited mobility of your jaw
Clicking sounds when opening or closing your jaw
If you experience these symptoms, it is a wise choice to consult your dentist or medical professional. Diagnosing these disorders on your own can be difficult, and doing so can be crucial to managing your pain or addressing the underlying cause.
Headaches and Migraines
Headaches and migraines vary from person to person, almost as much as facial pain. Pain may be chronic or one-off in your head or face and may be severe or mild. In some cases, an underlying dental problem or toothache can cause a headache.
Symptoms of a migraine can include:
pain in your head or face
sensitivity to emotions
Dizziness or disorientation
altered visual perception
Sweating or shaking
Appropriate treatment for your headache or migraine will vary based on its severity and underlying cause. Drinking water can help prevent migraines. According to experts, taking over-the-counter pain medications may help in some cases, but may contribute to the problem in others.
If your pain is severe or recurring, you should consult your dentist or medical professional to make sure you have access to the best treatment options and prevention techniques available. They can prescribe medications that can be much more helpful than the over-the-counter varieties or help prevent headaches and migraines from happening in the first place.
A sinus infection (also known as sinusitis) is swelling of tissues inside the spaces inside your head. Your sinuses are located near your cheeks, forehead, nose and eyes and connect all these areas. It’s important to keep in mind that it can be difficult to differentiate between a cold, allergy, and sinus infection on your own.
Symptoms of a sinus infection may include:
Facial pain, discomfort, or pressure
runny or stuffy nose
Treatment for a sinus infection typically involves drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and taking over-the-counter medications such as decongestants and cold medicines. Your doctor may recommend other treatments, such as antibiotics or stronger prescription medications, depending on the underlying cause and its severity.
Your body transmits sensations from your sense organs (like a cold feeling in your mouth) to your brain through your nervous system. Your nervous system is made up of nerves, and one of the largest in your head is your trigeminal nerve.
Trigeminal neuralgia refers to the dysfunction of this nerve, which causes severe pain when stimulation is applied to your face. According to experts, this condition is more likely in women and people over the age of 50.
Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia may include:
Unpredictable, spontaneous or sensation-triggered episodes of pain
Pain typically affects one side of your face (unilateral)
Pain in your teeth, cheek, jaw, lips, gums, or eye
The pain is accompanied by aching or burning
Episodes get worse over time
For treatment, you should schedule a visit with your medical professional. According to experts, they may prescribe anticonvulsants, antispasmodics, botox injections or recommend surgery to treat this condition.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is a condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox. If you had chickenpox as a child, the virus can reactivate and cause a rash.
Symptoms of shingles can include:
Raised, blistered, or crusted red rash
Pain around the head, face, or area of the rash
Nerve pain (which may feel like tingling, burning, or throbbing)
Important note: If you have symptoms, you should set up an appointment with your medical professional or visit a hospital where they can prescribe antivirals and pain relievers. Please stay away from people who have never had chickenpox or shingles because you could get them to get chickenpox.
Concepts to Keep in Mind
Whatever the underlying cause of your facial pain, several themes reappear throughout the different conditions discussed in this article:
Accurate diagnosis and understanding the underlying cause of your facial pain are crucial to managing, reducing or preventing it.
Appropriate treatment will depend on your individual health history and the severity of your pain.
Facial pain can be difficult to accurately diagnose and treat on your own.
Your dental and medical professionals are uniquely equipped to help you reduce and manage your facial pain. It’s a great idea to schedule an appointment for expert opinions on diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Confronting your facial pain can be difficult, but you’ve taken an important first step by reading this article. You are not alone in this and experts are ready to help you. If you are dealing with chronic or recurrent facial pain, you have a powerful opportunity to make lasting change in your long-term happiness and health.