Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Pain Management & Medicine


Pharmacy Faculty


Chronic orofacial pain is a symptom associated with a wide range of neuropathic, neurovascular, idiopathic, and myofascial conditions that affect a significant proportion of the population. While the collective impact of the subset of the orofacial pain disorders involving neurogenic and idiopathic mechanisms is substantial, some of these are relatively uncommon. Hence, patients with these disorders can be vulnerable to misdiagnosis, sometimes for years, increasing the symptom burden and delaying effective treatment. This manuscript first reviews the decision tree to be followed in diagnosing any neuropathic pain condition, as well as the levels of evidence needed to make a diagnosis with each of several levels of confidence: definite, probable, or possible. It then examines the clinical literature related to the idiopathic and neurogenic conditions that can occasion chronic orofacial pain, including burning mouth syndrome, trigeminal neuralgia, glossopharyngeal neuralgia, post-herpetic neuralgia, and atypical odontalgia. Temporomandibular disorders also are examined as are other headache conditions, even though they are not neurologic conditions, because they are common and can mimic symptoms of the latter disorders. For each of these conditions, the paper reviews literature regarding incidence and prevalence, physiologic and other contributing factors, diagnostic signs and symptoms, and empirical evidence regarding treatments. Finally, in order to improve the quality and accuracy of clinical diagnosis, as well as the efficiency with which effective treatment is initiated and delivered, criteria are offered that can be instrumental in making a differential diagnosis.