Although the procedure for having your wisdom teeth extracted is more predictable than ever before, there is the potential for complications to arise. Each year, a small percentage of oral surgery patients suffer from a condition known as paresthesia, in which unavoidable nerve damage occurs during the tooth extraction process.

Occasionally, the nerve that is found in the jawbone can become bruised or damaged during the surgical process. When this nerve that is located near the wisdom teeth is affected, you can expect to experience a prolonged sensation of numbness to the tongue, lips, chin, or gums. In regards to the wisdom teeth, there are a few sensory nerve pathways that lie particularly close to the roots or the crown of the teeth.

Generally, the symptoms of paresthesia will disappear after a few weeks (or months) without any additional treatment. For a small percentage of patients, the symptoms will last more than 6 months, and an even smaller percentage who could demonstrate permanent numbness.

In the jawbone, there are two sensory nerves that are most likely to be bruised or damaged during surgery:

  • The inferior alveolar nerve which provides sensation to the bottom teeth, the chin, and the bottom lip.
  • The lingual nerve which is responsible for your sense of taste to the front half of the tongue. This nerve is also responsible for the tongue’s sense of touch as well as the sensation to the surface of the gums located closest to the tongue.

Nerve injuries that occur as a result of wisdom teeth extraction are particularly rare and are often temporary in nature. Risk factors such as the location of the wisdom teeth, the nature of the surgical procedure, and the age of the patient can influence the possibility of paresthesia.  Still, it is recommended that patients be aware of the potential for such complications and the proposed treatments for these injuries prior to having any teeth removed.

To find out more about your risk for such an injury, contact the wisdom tooth expert, Dr. Steven Koos DDS, MD today for a personalized consultation.