A week after getting all my wisdom teeth extracted, the lower left side of my jaw still felt numb. Three days ago, the oral surgeon did sensation tests. I will return in two weeks for a follow-up appointment.
The numbness is causing problems when I eat and brush my teeth. Did the IV sedation affect my jaw nerve? Is there anything else I can do to improve the situation? Is this common, or should I be more concerned than the oral surgeon seems to be? – Thank you. Tiffany P. from Athens, GA
Thank you for your inquiry. Your description sounds like your lower-left jaw nerve is damaged. The extent of the damage determines how much the nerve will recover.
Nerve Damage with Wisdom Tooth Removal
Nerve damage can occur with wisdom teeth removal because the nerve for your lower teeth and lip is close to your wisdom tooth roots. During wisdom tooth removal, the nerve can be damaged. But the damage is not related to receiving sedation to help you relax before the procedure. Before surgery, an oral surgeon should do the following:
- X-ray your teeth and jawbone to see the location of the nerve
- Notify you of the risk of damaging the nerve during wisdom teeth removal
Many surgeons overestimate the risk of nerve damage to protect themselves from possible lawsuits.
Categories of Nerve Injury During Wisdom Tooth Removal
The three categories of nerve injury during wisdom tooth removal have different results:
- Bruised – You will feel numbness for about a month, after which the feeling will return.
- Crushed – Symptoms last about a year as new nerve fibers grow.
- Severed – Permanent injury prevents nerve fibers from regrowing, and you will continue to experience symptoms.
What to Expect
- Depending on the extent of damage to the nerve in your jaw, you may not see improvement when you return to your oral surgeon for a checkup.
- It may take a month or up to a year for improvement. If the nerve can recover, you will begin to feel tingling in your lip as it heals.
- Some patients say that their body adjusts to the numbness and symptoms become less intense even with a severed nerve.
Although there isn’t anything you can do to repair the nerve, try to be patient as you wait for signs of improvement. Your oral surgeon can advise you on how much progress you might expect to feel over the next few months.
Steven Brooksher, DDS, of Baton Rouge, sponsors this post.