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Finding The Source Of Pain: Why You Cannot Tell Which Tooth Hurts

Have you ever had a toothache and could not figure out which tooth was actually hurting? Frustrating right? Learn about the elusive toothache.


Photo: get directly down (Flickr)

If you experience tooth pain it can be difficult to tell which tooth the pain is actually coming from. Visiting a dentist can help determine the source of the pain.

Isn’t it annoying when you have tooth pain but cannot figure out which tooth has a problem? It may seem like you are the only one with this problem however, it’s not just you.

Finding The Pain

Our brains are typically really good at detecting pain. But when it comes to teeth, for some reason the wires sometimes get crossed.


In one study, scientists zapped intrepid volunteers with electrical pulses that caused pain in either their upper or lower left canine teeth. At the same time they used MRI to see how the brain responded.

They found that areas in the brain’s cerebral cortex involved with sensing pain reacted in the same way to pain in the upper and lower teeth.

What Does This All Mean?

So basically, whether it was the upper canine or the lower canine sending pain signals, the brain didn’t really register much difference. And if our brains can’t tell the difference, then neither can we.

Now, this doesn’t mean that it’s always impossible to tell which tooth is aching. Sometimes it’s pretty clear. It’s even possible that some teeth in pain are easier for the brain to detect than others.

Further Research Is Needed

Bottom line, there’s still a lot that scientists don’t know about brain tooth connections. But the more they learn, the better able they’ll be to invent treatments for aching teeth.

  • Cynthia Rose

    I guess this is just another reason to make sure that we see dentists often. That would be so frustrating to not know where exactly the tooth pain is coming from. It is interesting that the brain responds to pain in such various ways. This was a very interesting read.
    Cynthia |

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