Atypical odontalgia – pathophysiology and clinical management


Lene Baad-Hansen, Department of Clinical Oral Physiology, School of Dentistry, University of Aarhus, Vennelyst Boulevard 9, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. E-mail:


Summary  Atypical odontalgia (AO) is a chronic form of dental pain without signs of pathology. Several hypotheses have been put forward regarding the pathophysiology. AO has been proposed to be psychogenic, vascular, neuropathic or idiopathic. The scientific evidence supporting or rejecting these hypotheses are reviewed in this paper. At this time, the best supported hypothesis is that AO is a neuropathic pain condition. Relevant differential diagnoses, such as odontogenic pain, sinusitis, trigeminal neuralgia among others, are presented and the evidence regarding possible management strategies is reviewed. A treatment algorithm for AO is proposed based on the rather scarce scientific evidence available and inspired by a similar treatment algorithm for peripheral neuropathic pain. The proposed strategy involves an interdisciplinary approach including patient education, psychological counselling, topical and systemic medication and, importantly, avoidance of invasive treatments like surgery and endodontics. Two illustrative cases are presented.