ARE PHANTOM BITES FOR REAL?
Phantom bites; also known as Dysesthesia, is the painful/uncomfortable feeling of a biting sensation that a person may experience even though there are no abnormalities detected. They become so overly focused on their dental occlusion; believing that it is abnormal. It is similar to the phantom limb phenomena (a person without a limb feels like the limb is still present). Despite repeated treatments, the sufferers seek help from multiple dentists. The patient will claim that the treatments aren’t working and will try different dentists and ask for the same treatment to be done. Most of the time, these patients are never cured. That is because it is a neurological (psychosomatic) disorder…not an issue with their actual teeth! In a study, when given antidepressants, the patients reported that they felt relief and less pain. There are many philosophies behind this medical mystery, so the exact cause of why this happens to some people may never be fully understood. Because of its uniqueness, the treatments for this disorder vary from daily oral muscle therapy, strong pain medications, bite splints, to antidepressants, but mostly adaptive coping skills (as there is no ‘real’ cure). If a dentist sees a patient complaining of a phantom bite, it is not recommended for them to grind/equilibrate the patient’s teeth or to remove any dental work already done in the mouth. Evidence suggests that the symptoms cannot be improved by occlusion treatments; so it’s essential to avoid extensive irreversible restorative treatment. These patients should be referred to specialists and should also seek psychiatric evaluations. The prognosis for this disorder is poor, so teaching the patient how to adapt to their symptoms is the best treatment that has been discovered so far. Further research is needed to understand the nature of this condition to improve future treatment options…and possibly finding a cure. -Lindi