Trigeminal Neuralgia


Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a condition that causes painful sensations similar to an electric shock on one side of the face. This chronic pain condition affects the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from your face to your brain. If you have trigeminal neuralgia, even mild stimulation of your face — such as from brushing your teeth or putting on makeup — may trigger a jolt of excruciating pain.

You may initially experience short, mild attacks. But TN can progress and cause longer, more-frequent bouts of searing pain. TN affects women more often than men, and it’s more likely to occur in people who are older than 50.

Because of the variety of treatment options available, having TN doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doomed to a life of pain. Doctors usually can effectively manage TN with medications, injections or surgery.


Trigeminal neuralgia symptoms may include one or more of these patterns:

  • Episodes of severe, shooting or jabbing pain that may feel like an electric shock
  • Spontaneous attacks of pain or attacks triggered by things such as touching the face, chewing, speaking or brushing teeth
  • Attacks of pain lasting from a few seconds to several minutes
  • Pain that occurs with facial spasms
  • Bouts of multiple attacks lasting days, weeks, months or longer — some people have periods when they experience no pain
  • Pain in areas supplied by the trigeminal nerve, including the cheek, jaw, teeth, gums, lips, or less often the eye and forehead
  • Pain affecting one side of the face at a time
  • Pain focused in one spot or spread in a wider pattern
  • Pain rarely occurring at night while sleeping
  • Attacks that become more frequent and intense over time


Your doctor will diagnose TN mainly based on your description of the pain, including:

  • Type: sudden, shock-like and brief.
  • Location: if the parts of your face that are affected by pain involve the trigeminal nerve.
  • Triggers: usually is brought on by eating, talking, light touch of your face or even encountering a cool breeze.

Dr. Bell may conduct many tests to diagnose TN and determine underlying causes for your condition, including: external and internal examinations; T-Scan bite evaluations; MRI; referral to specialist such as a neurologist.

Your facial pain may be caused by many different conditions, so an accurate diagnosis is important. If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Katie Bell at Bell Dental, PA, please call the office 301.620.8869 to schedule an evaluation.