Your Brain Can’t Tell Up From Down Inside Your Mouth

Posted by on April 16th, 2010


Ever pointed out which tooth is killing you to the dentist, only for the smug dong to give you a wide-eyed glance, then shoot a bemused look at the hygienist, then give you a patronizing “suuuuuuuure it’s the back right molar” whilst stifling a giggle?

Well as it turns out, our brains have a really hard time pin-pointing if tooth pain comes from the bottom or the top. Jerk.

The results, which will be published in the journal Pain, help explain why patients are notoriously bad at pinpointing a toothache.

For the most part, humans are exquisitely tuned to pain. The brain can immediately distinguish between a splinter in the index finger and a paper cut on the thumb, even though the digits are next-door neighbors. But in the mouth this can be more difficult, depending where and how intense the ache is.

“We don’t know much about tooth pain,” comments dentist and neuroscientist Alexandre DaSilva of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who was not part of the new research. The new study is one of the first to address the puzzle of toothache localization, he says.

Also, dentists are the The Back Up Plan of doctors.

[Science News]

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