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Article: Volume 44 Number 1 Page 8 - January 2017

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  Dent Update 2017; 44: 8-32

Restorative dentistry:  The Paradoxes of Phantom Bite Syndrome or Occlusal Dysaesthesia (‘Dysesthesia’)

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Abstract: Phantom bite syndrome was first described by Marbach over 40 years ago as a mono-symptomatic hypochondriacal psychosis. He used the term to describe a prolonged syndrome in which patients report that their ‘bite is wrong’ or that ‘their dental occlusion is abnormal’ with this causing them great difficulties. This strong belief about ‘their bite’ being the source of their problems leads to them demanding, and subsequently getting, various types of dentistry carried out by multiple dentists and ‘specialists’. Sadly, even after exhaustive, painstaking, careful treatment, none of the dental treatments manages to solve their perceived ‘bite problems’. This is because they suffer from a psychiatric illness involving a delusion into which they continue to lack insight, in spite of the failures of often sophisticated dental treatments.1,2,3 In summary, dental practitioners, or other specialists, who suspect that they might be dealing with such a problem should refer these patients early on for specialist management by an appropriate specialist within the secondary care settings, preferably before they get trapped into the time-consuming quagmire of their management. A ‘Phantom Bite Questionnaire’, which is available to download free, might help.

Clinical relevance: This article aims to provide professionals in various fields with guidelines on detecting, diagnosing and managing patients with Phantom Bite Syndrome (PBS). This is desirable in order to prevent extensive, or unnecessarily destructive, or unstable dental treatment being undertaken on such patients in a vain attempt to solve their problems with ‘dentistry’ when, in fact, these are really due to underlying mental health issues.

Author notes: Martin G Kelleher, Consultant in Restorative Dentistry, Department of Restorative Dentistry and Traumatology, King’s College Hospital Dental Institute, London SE5 9RW (martin.kelleher@nhs.net), Lakshmi Rasaratnam, Specialist Registrar, King's College London and William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, Kent and Serpil Djemal, Department of Restorative Dentistry and Traumatology, King’s College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RW, UK.

Objective: To provide dental professionals (and others) with guidelines on detecting, diagnosing and managing patients with Phantom Bite Syndrome (PBS).

ADG