How Can a Regular Visit To Your Dentist Cause Nerve Damage?

Ordinary Dental Treatments Can Damage Your Nerves

Although it is rare, it is possible to suffer dental nerve damage (also called dental paresthesia) from a regular visit to the dentist. It is even possible that the damage could be permanent, but most nerve damage cases result in only temporary problems. It could occur during any dental treatment, even when the dentist is extremely careful.


Why It Happens

The nerves that enable you to feel sensations in your tongue, chin, lower lip, and gums, run below your teeth. While you are young, the distance between the teeth roots and the teeth are at a rather safe distance. As you grow older, the roots of your teeth grow closer and closer. By the age of 25, the roots are at their full length, and the risk for nerve damage is higher. 

The dentist will usually take an x-ray of your teeth before performing any dental surgery. While the nerves are visible on an x-ray, the dentist cannot tell how far the nerves are into the gums because they are only two dimensional. 

If a general dentist is unsure of the safety of an extraction, it may be referred to an oral surgeon for the task. They are more experienced. 

One large study revealed that nerve pain after surgery occurs on average in 1 out of 27,000 people. This means the average dentist will not have it occur more than two times during the lifetime of the practice. 


How Nerve Damage Occurs

Even when a dentist is most careful, it can result in possible nerve damage. It may occur when injecting the anesthesia – which is usually two to four times when extracting a tooth. The needle may pierce the nerve, or, it is even possible that the anesthesia itself could damage it. 

Other possible causes are that various dental tools may be needed to remove a tooth – particularly a wisdom tooth. As the dentist uses the tools to remove the tooth, it is possible that pressure from the tool may be applied to the nerve, causing a bruise. 

The gums may also need to be cut, and some bone may also need to be cut away in the extraction process, which could result in a severed nerve. All of the steps involved in implanting dental implants could also result in nerve damage. A root canal may also result in the same problem. 


The Result of Nerve Damage

When a nerve is damaged, most likely the lingual nerve, there may be a variety of results. Pain is most often felt with a lingual nerve injury, but you will not experience it until the anesthesia wears off. Other sensations include burning, electric shock, numbness, tingling, crawling feeling, or hypersensitivity in that particular area. A complete loss of any sensation may also occur. 

Since the lingual nerve affects your tongue, your taste may change, as well as your ability to eat or drink liquids. The tongue receives instructions from the brain on how to move when you chew, but nerve damage may prevent these signals from getting through. 

Your speech may also be affected, for the same reason as eating. You also may have numbness in your chin and lower lip, which will affect how you shave and kiss, too, and play a musical instrument. 


Emotional Effects

A lingual nerve injury can produce drastic effects on an individual when they occur – especially when it is discovered that they may be permanent. Of course, the effects will often have a sudden impact because it could completely change their quality of life. 


The Healing Time Frame

After you have experienced nerve damage, most people will completely recover (about 90 percent) within an eight week period. Some people may see some recovery up to six months later. After six months, the damage is considered permanent. 

Different types of surgery are now available to repair the nerve. Better techniques of microsurgery have been developed, but the best time to have surgery is within the first three months. 


Dental Nerve Damage Treatment

After you have suffered accidental lingual nerve damage, there are some treatments that may help. They include:

  • Medications – The medications used will vary, but it depends on the need. It may include analgesics (possibly including narcotics), antidepressants, and antiepileptic. 
  • Surgery to sew the severed nerve back together – This surgery will frequently be used if the nerve was severed. The surgeon will stitch it back together. In most cases, there may only be a partial recovery. Other surgical methods are also available. 
  • Laser treatment – The light from a low-intensity laser has been found to be beneficial in speeding up healing. It can also help recovery when used prior to and after nerve surgery. 
  • Various therapies – In order to help patients recover emotionally from the distress caused by permanent damage, different types of therapy may be tried. This includes hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, biofeedback, and more. 


If you need an experienced oral surgeon to extract teeth, or have already had some dental nerve damage and need treatment for it, Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board-certified Periodontist, may be able to help you. He has dental offices in the Carrollton, Dallas, CedarHill and Grapevine, TX areas. For more information, or to set up an appointment, call his office today at (214) 731-0123.