Multiple Sclerosis Complications: Trigeminal Neuralgia

Patient Expert

I like to smile, and I smile a lot.

I take pride in my dental hygiene. That's always been an aspect of my health I could control. Twice daily brushing and regular flossing made my dental visits pretty painless.

That is why last November, well, it bit. I never expected Dan's and my dentist would be the bearer of the bad news about another MS symptom I was experiencing.

After Halloween, I started feeling this painful zing whenever I ate anything sweet. The pain was similar to chewing on a piece of tin foil with a metal filling. Yep, that zing. OUCH

I figured I had a little too much candy and not enough brushing. Probably had a cavity. Sure enough, my dentist found a small cavity. He numbed, drilled and filled the area and sent me on my way.

But the pain resurfaced a few days later, and this time it wasn't only when I ate sweets. Drinking anything cold also caused a sharp zing in the lower right corner of my jaw. I managed to ignore it because certainly my dentist couldn't have missed another cavity.

However, when I brushed my teeth and felt horrible pain upon swishing and spitting, I started having doubts. And when I woke up from sound sleep with a sharp stabbing pain, I knew something was wrong. It even hurt when I smiled!

Once again, I visited my dentist, hoping he had missed something. But when he X-rayed and poked around my mouth, I was amazed when he said, "Gosh Jennifer, your teeth are in perfect condition."

"But doctor, how can that be? My teeth are causing me such pain."

That's when the wheels started turning for him. He consulted with my neurologist and gave me their collective diagnosis.

They agreed that my symptoms sounded like trigeminal neuralgia. I soon learned that trigeminal neuralgia is a stabbing pain in the face. It can be confused with dental pain, yet this pain is neuropathic in origin, meaning that it is caused by damage to the trigeminal nerve. The pain also may happen in cycles with remissions lasting months or even years.

"Super," I thought. "Is there no part of me safe from my Multiple Sclerosis?"

My neurologist prescribed Neurontin for the nerve pain, but unfortunately that did not give me much relief. There are other medications my doctor could have prescribed, such as Tegretol, but miraculously, as quickly as the pain appeared, it started going away within a couple of weeks.

Talk about great timing -- I was able to enjoy a delicious, pain-free Thanksgiving dinner. That definitely was something to be thankful for. Fortunately, over the last seven months, trigeminal neuralgia gave me no problems.

However, lately the pain has started to slowly creep back. A twinge here, a little zing there. Now it's a fairly steady, constant pain. I've been having such intense pain, and after speaking with my neurologist, I agreed to give Neurontin another try. I'm hopeful that it will help this time.

This condition is so frustrating because there is no rhyme or reason to the pain. After living with MS for 14 years, I should be kind of used to dealing with a mysterious, frustrating condition, but trigeminal neuralgia is tough. And really, if it's not asking too much, I just want to smile again.