Wisdom tooth nerve damage is mainly associated with surgical removal, especially when the extraction site is near the nerve. Two types of nerves are found on the right and left side (in duplicate) and are of concern. The inferior alveolar nerve is one of them, the other being the lingual nerve.
The lingual nerve is responsible for supplying sense of taste and touch to the gums, found on the inside surface and the left and right side of the tongue. The inferior alveolar nerve supplies sensation of touch to the left and right half of the lower lip and chin and sensation to the left and right half of the dental arch.
Wisdom tooth nerve damage is usually the result of damage with a surgical drill, but it can occur when lifting a tooth. These injuries are typically temporary and are rare, but they can be permanent or prolonged depending on the injury. In rare cases, injury is caused by bleeding into the root canal, and injury is due to the blood build-up causing an increased pressure.
In general, the risk of paresthesia or nerve damage depends on the location of the nerve. The closer the nerve to the wisdom tooth is, the higher the chances of injury. Dentists use X-rays to assess the risk of damaging the alveolar nerve. It runs through the lower jaw and can be seen in a panoramic X-ray. If the nerve is found close by, surgery will be risky meaning that the risk of nerve damage will be high.
Wisdom teeth extraction is not recommended if the tooth is not giving the patient any problems. If the tooth is troubling the patient, i.e. in case of infections and associated wisdom teeth pain, the dentist will weigh out the benefits and risks. The same is true if wisdom tooth removal is required for orthodontic treatment.
To this, the patient should be informed of the consequences of wisdom tooth nerve damage. These include drooling, feeling of numbness in the chin and lip, and being unable to hold food at one corner of the mouth. In some cases, patients may suffer loss of sensation on one side of the chin or lip.
Usually, the numbness recovers partially in a couple of days and full recovery can be expected in about two weeks. In this case, numbness may be due to the nerve being slightly displaced.