Mouth, jaw or face pain and other unpleasant sensations

Pain that lasts longer than 3 months is called persistent or ongoing pain. You might also have other unpleasant sensations, such as a burning or numb feeling.

Living with ongoing pain in your mouth, jaw or face, can affect your life in different ways.

You might not enjoy activities the way you used to, or your mood or confidence might be affected.

There are things you can do to help with your symptoms, alongside your medical management. These will not take away the sensations or pain, but might help you feel less distressed by them and have a better quality of life.


The symptoms and sensations might be different each day.

They can include:

  • burning
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • pain when it’s cold
  • pain when touching the area
  • an unpleasant taste
  • altered sensations
  • a dry mouth


Pain is our body’s warning system, to get our attention and make us move to protect ourselves. This works well when tissues are damaged, for example if you have a broken leg.

In people with persistent pain, the pain-signalling system has become overactive. In these cases, the pain is more related to the nervous system (nerves, spinal cord and brain) than it is to a problem in your face, jaw or mouth. The pain is real, but it has not been sent because of ongoing damage, so is not a helpful warning system.

For some people, the pain starts after they have had a dental treatment or an injury to the face or mouth. In others, there is no obvious cause.

We also know that stress, anxiety, depression, and moods like sadness and frustration, can affect your symptoms.


Some conditions of the mouth, jaw or face can be hard to diagnose.

Unpleasant sensations (such as burning or numbness) do not show up on scans or X-rays, and your mouth, jaw or face might not have any visible symptoms.

Your doctor will have checked that the sensations are not a sign of something that needs more investigations.

Resource number: 4962/VER2
Last reviewed: January 2024
Next review due: January 2027

Contact us

Dental psychology service

Oral medicine, Floor 22 Tower Wing, Guy’s Hospital, Great Maze Pond, London SE1 9RT.

Phone: 020 7188 4399, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Email: [email protected]

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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