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Article: Volume 42 Number 3 Page 238 - April 2015

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  Dent Update 2015; 42: 238-244

Oral surgery:  Pain Part 2a: Trigeminal Anatomy Related to Pain

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Abstract: In order to understand the underlying principles of orofacial pain it is important to understand the corresponding anatomy and mechanisms. Paper 1 of this series explains the central nervous and peripheral nervous systems relating to pain. The trigeminal nerve is the ‘great protector’ of the most important region of our body. It is the largest sensory nerve of the body and over half of the sensory cortex is responsive to any stimulation within this system. This nerve is the main sensory system of the branchial arches and underpins the protection of the brain, sight, smell, airway, hearing and taste, underpinning our very existence. The brain reaction to pain within the trigeminal system has a significant and larger reaction to the threat of, and actual, pain compared with other sensory nerves. We are physiologically wired to run when threatened with pain in the trigeminal region and it is a ‘miracle’ that patients volunteer to sit in a dental chair and undergo dental treatment.

Clinical relevance: This paper aims to provide the dental and medical teams with a review of the trigeminal anatomy of pain and the principles of pain assessment.

Author notes: Tara Renton, BDS, MDSc, PhD, FARCDS(OMS), FDS, RCS, FHEA, Professor, Department of Oral Surgery and Obi Egbuniwe, BDS, MSc, PhD, AFHEA, Honorary Clinical Researcher, Department of Oral Surgery, King’s College London Dental Institute, King’s College Hospital London, Bessemer Road, London SE5 9RS, UK.

Objective: To provide an overview of the anatomy of the trigeminal neural system relevant to orofacial pain.