Although uncommon, injury to the mandibular (lower jaw) nerve may result in anesthesia (numbness), paresthesia (tingling), dysesthesia (pain and burning), or a combination of these symptoms on one side of the face. If the entire nerve is affected, the symptoms may mimic the effects of partial or complete numbness following a dental injection of local anesthetic, including the tongue and lower lip. The condition is sometimes confined only to the lingual nerve, the branch of the mandibular nerve that provides sensation to the tongue.
In most cases, there is a gradual regeneration of sensation (several weeks or even months), or the dental condition may be long term. Healing of nerve injuries is commonly slow, with a reduction in the intensity of the sensations and the size of the area affected. Care must be taken to avoid inadvertent lip or tongue biting during eating.
Dental nerve injuries are usually the result of trauma, although infections and neoplasm's (tumors) may be implicated. External traumatic injuries, unless severe, do not commonly cause dental nerve damage due to the thick, dense protection of the lower jaw bone. The most common cause of nerve injury occurs after a mandibular (lower) dental nerve block injection. During routine injections, the needle may touch, or pass through, the targeted nerve, but rarely causes harm. In select instances, even this relatively minor trauma may result in damage. Numbness from a dental injection is usually transient. This bizarre occurrence is not commonly associated with improper technique or operator negligence.
Complications of tooth extraction of third molars (wisdom teeth) are more commonly associated with dental nerve injuries, particular long term symptoms. Although unusual, the occurrence should be considered as a possible removal of wisdom teeth when the risks and benefits are weighed. Root canal procedures, other dental extractions and the placement of dental implants are possible causes, though less likely.
The recommended course of dental treatment varies. If it were evident during a dental surgical procedure that there was injury to the nerve, an immediate referral to an oral surgeon is appropriate. At this time, surgical repair may be considered. If the symptoms appear after a dental procedure, without an identifiable cause, caution should be exercised rather than immediate surgical intervention. The situation should be carefully monitored to evaluate the course of healing. Steroid treatment is favored by some practitioners; however the success rate has not been established, as most cases spontaneously heal, with or without medications. If the symptoms do not diminish in 6-8 weeks, a consultation is certainly warranted.
Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.