Dental Nerve Injury
Serving Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach and clients throughout Florida
Injuries to dental nerves can be very serious and have life-long effects on the patient. The two nerves most commonly injured during dental procedures are the lingual and the inferior alveolar nerves.
Lingual Nerve Injury
The lingual nerve runs in the gum tissue on the inside of the lower jaw. It is a sensory nerve which provides feeling to the forward two thirds of the tongue. Injury to the lingual nerve can occur during extraction of teeth, particularly lower wisdom teeth, or during dental procedures which require incisions in the gum tissue on the inside of the lower jaw.
Injury to the lingual nerve can cause pain, tingling or complete loss of feeling to the tongue on the side where the nerve is injured. For example, if the lingual nerve on the left side is injured, the patient will often experience pain, numbness or tingling on the left side of the tongue. If the lingual nerve on the right side is injured, the patient will often experience those same symptoms on the right side of the tongue.
Patients who suffer lingual nerve injuries also frequently lose their sense of taste on the affected side of the tongue. Some patients also notice that food tastes different after a lingual nerve injury because the taste sensation occurs only on one side of the tongue. This can make certain foods, particularly spicy foods, difficult to eat because the sensation becomes too strong or is otherwise unpleasant. It can also be more difficult for the person to drink hot liquids, such as coffee, because the hot liquid is not felt on the numb side of the tongue and can burn the unaffected side of the tongue once the hot liquid comes into contact with that side.
Patients with lingual nerve injuries may also have problems with biting their tongue on the affected side or have difficulty with pocketing food on that side of their mouth because they can’t feel it. Sometimes patients note that their speech is affected and they have to take special care to fully enunciate their words.
Inferior Alveolar Nerve Injury
The inferior alveolar nerve runs in a bony canal in the lower jaw called the mandibular canal. The inferior alveolar nerve provides feeling to the gum area, lower lip and chin. Injury to the inferior alveolar nerve can cause pain, tingling or numbness to these areas on the side where the inferior alveolar nerve is injured. For example, injury to the inferior alveolar nerve on the left side will often cause pain, tingling or numbness to the gums, chin and lower lip on the left side of the patient’s face.
Injury to the inferior alveolar nerve during dental procedures can occur during tooth extractions, particularly wisdom tooth extractions, root canals or placement of dental implants too deep. In addition to pain, tingling and/or numbness to the gums, chin area and lower lip on the affected side, you may also experience drooling during eating because you cannot feel food coming out of your mouth on that side. Additionally, inferior alveolar nerve injuries often affect more intimate activities, such as kissing, because the injured person experiences pain in the lips during kissing or simply cannot feel the kiss at all because of numbness. These injuries can seriously affect the quality of life for the injured person.
Are Nerve Injuries During Dental Proceedures Negligence?
Dental procedures such as wisdom tooth extractions, placement of dental implants, root canals, etc. all carry a degree of risk, including risk of nerve injury. Not all nerve injuries are the result of dental negligence, but many are, and could have been avoided if the dentist or oral surgeon had used proper care during the dental procedure.
If you have suffered a dental nerve injury, you should have an attorney experienced in these matters evaluate your case. Frank Ashton has handled multiple dental nerve injury cases over the years and is one of the most experienced attorneys in this state in these types of cases.
Will My Dental Nerve Injury Be Permanent?
Not all injuries to the lingual nerve or inferior alveolar nerve are permanent injuries. That is, if the nerve injury is not severe, the nerve may be able to heal itself over time and the loss of feeling may return. In cases of more severe nerve injury, however, the nerve will not be able to heal itself. In those cases, referral to a nerve repair specialist for evaluation and possible nerve repair surgery is critically important. In many cases, nerve repair surgery, if performed in a timely manner, can reduce or eliminate pain and can return all or part of the feeling lost by the nerve injury.
For nerve repair surgery to have a good chance of success, however, it must be done in a relatively short period of time after the nerve has been injured. There are different time windows for different types of injuries. For example, if a patient has undergone either a root canal or implant procedure and is experiencing pain or numbness to the lower lips or chin after anesthesia wears off, the patient should immediately seek referral to a nerve repair specialist. If a patient is still experiencing pain one month after a wisdom tooth removal, the patient should see a nerve repair specialist for evaluation. If a patient still has significant numbness three months after a wisdom tooth removal, the patient should see a nerve repair specialist.
While nerve repair procedures done outside of these time windows may still be beneficial to the patient, the chances of success for the surgery are often significantly reduced. Sometimes dentists will recommend that the patient wait for many months or even more than a year to see if the pain or numbness will resolve after the nerve injury. You should not do this because the longer you wait before getting a nerve repair specialist to evaluate your injury, the less likely it is that any nerve repair procedure will be successful.
What to Do If You Believe You Have Suffered a Dental Nerve Injury ?
If you believe you have suffered a dental nerve injury, you should contact an attorney experienced with dental nerve injury cases. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and can often recommend specialists who may be able to assist you in recovering from the injury. Frank Ashton has handled multiple dental nerve injury cases over the years and is one of the most experienced attorneys in this state in these types of cases. Please contact him for a free consultation.
What constitutes a personal injury?
The most common personal injury is an auto accident, but the broad definition encompasses any situation where a person suffers harm due to the negligence of another person or entity. Early identification of a personal injury is important to the legal process. Many serious injuries occur each year involving:
– Auto accidents
– Premises liability accidents such as injuries caused by a slip and fall
– Medical malpractice/nursing home injuries
– Wrongful death
– Work-related accidents
– Animal attacks
– Faulty or malfunctioning products (product liability)