Dental pain can be difficult to diagnose

The Patient Files- Part 5

This series of articles deals with real patients who came to my office for a second opinion. Not all dentists see things the same way, and there are almost always multiple options for every patient. There is not always one “best” treatment plan for a patient, but there is usually a right one.

This article hits close to home because it involves my uncle. I did not see him as my patient regularly because he did not live close to my office. This was rather unfortunate, because he suffered with headaches, pain to his ear and the uncertainty of what was wrong for more than a year. He started getting shooting pain to the left side of his head that would last several seconds, and then go away. This happened for several days until he saw his regular dentist who could find nothing wrong with him. The pain persisted, so he then went to his family doctor. His doctor did some routine tests and blood work and decided to put him on antibiotics to see if that would help. After a month or so without any relief, his conditioned worsened. He began to have more prolonged pain on the left side of his jaw and headaches that would last an hour or more. His family doctor sent him to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) to see if he could help. A series of tests were done, including a cat scan of his head, but no abnormalities were found.

After a year of pain and anxiety about his condition, I saw him at a family gathering and he told me about what he was going through. I told him to come to the office and let me examine him. When he did, I took an x-ray of his upper left jaw and quickly saw the problem. He had bone loss on a tooth with root canal that had become re-infected. The tooth needed to be extracted, which I did that same day. The next day, all his symptoms resolved, proving the tooth was in fact the cause. So remember that any pain in the teeth can radiate to other parts of the face and head on the same side, and should be evaluated by your dentist.

Dr. Jerry Gordon can be reached at (215) 639-0571. Comments, questions, and second opinions are available at The Dental Comfort Zone, 2734 Street Rd. Bensalem, PA 19020 (across from the Giant supermarket).  E-mail: