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What You Should Know About Nerve Damage During Wisdom Teeth Extraction

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Your dentist says you should have at least two of your wisdom teeth extracted because they are impacted and growing in crooked. You were just about ready to make the appointment when somebody told you temporary nerve damage can occur during wisdom teeth removal. Now you're worried and wondering whether you should get those third molars removed after all. This complication of wisdom tooth extraction is rare and goes away when the nerve heals, so don't delay getting necessary dental work done.

About Paresthesia

A change in nerve sensation, known as paresthesia, is an unlikely but possible complication of wisdom teeth extraction when a nerve has been injured. Symptoms typically include numbness or tingling in a small area of the lip, inside of the cheek, the gums or the tongue. The sensation might feel like you've had a shot of Novocaine in that small area. You might have to be careful not to bite this area while chewing. 

Paresthesia usually resolves on its own within a few days to a few weeks. On rare occasion, a person has to deal with the situation for several months. 

Why Paresthesia Occurs During Wisdom Teeth Removal 

Sometimes a wisdom tooth becomes impacted and cannot grow in fully, leaving it very close to a nerve. A complex extraction may require the dental surgeon to move tissues around the tooth roots; those tissues may contain nerves. The surgeon may have to perform the procedure in a way that bruises, stretches or otherwise injures a nerve. 

View Your X-Rays

Ask your dentist to view your X-rays with you and point out where nerves are that could be affected by the surgery. Your impacted teeth may not be anywhere near a nerve, in which case you don't need to feel concerned. If there is a risk of paresthesia as a complication, ask your dentist about possible ways to manage the problem if you do experience any issues. 

Also talk with a dentist (such the specialists from Oral & Maxillofacial Surgical Associates) about whether it really is necessary to get your wisdom teeth removed. Sometimes dentists recommend wisdom teeth removal for preventive reasons, since those teeth can be difficult to clean and are more vulnerable to cavities and infection. However, impacted third molars and those that are growing in crooked can start crowding the other teeth, and they commonly start causing pain. If you trust your dentist's expert knowledge, follow his or her instructions about having the teeth removed.