Why a rotten tooth is hard to find

Brain can't distinguish pain coming from top versus bottom tooth

By Laura Sanders, 12:27 PM April 16, 2010

When it comes to a toothache, the brain doesn’t discriminate. A new imaging study shows that to the brain, a painful upper tooth feels a lot like a painful lower tooth. 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 ne...

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