A small percentage of people, up to 2 percent of people, experience permanent nerve damage after having their wisdom teeth pulled. An even larger percentage of people experience nerve pain that usually is resolved within a few months after surgery. This is due largely to the fact that the bottom wisdom teeth are very close to several nerves, including the mandibular nerve, the lingual nerve, and the maxillary nerve. In most cases, injuries affect the lingual nerve. Injuries to this nerve account for 70 percent of all cases involving nerve damage.
If you're getting your wisdom teeth removed, your dentist should tell you about your risks for nerve damage. You should also be aware the you are more at risk for nerve damage if the following risk factors are present.
People over the age of 35 are more at risk for nerve damage during tooth extraction than younger people. This is due mainly to the fact that the root systems of wisdom teeth become more intricate and more involved as time passes. In addition to age, sex may play a role. Female patients are more likely to sustain injuries than male patients.
The location and orientation of the tooth in question can increase the risk for injury. The closer the tooth is to the nerve, the higher the probability that the nerve will be damaged in the procedure. In some cases, the tooth can actually rest up against the nerve, which makes the removal a bit more tricky. The risk for nerve injury is also greater if the removal involves removing teeth that are partially erupted. Fortunately, your dentist can take X-rays and perform an examination to assess your risk before you have your teeth removed. If the risk is too great, they may decide not to remove your teeth.
Certain removal techniques carry more risk. For example, one procedure involves raising and retracting the lingual mucoperiosteal flap. This procedure, usually used to remove unerupted teeth, causes nerve damage in 11 percent of patients. However, the damage is usually temporary. A higher risk of permanent injury was reported in patients who had bone removed with a bur.
Permanent nerve damage is rare, but it can happen. Additionally, temporary nerve damage can cause pain for months after your procedure. It's important that you understand your risk factors before you have your wisdom teeth removed. Be sure to talk to your dentist if you have any concerns. Or talk to a wisdom teeth extraction expert like Oral & Maxillofacial Surgical Associates.