Facial Numbness Post Extraction
When wisdom teeth are extracted, there is always a risk of nerve injury resulting in facial numbness. Understanding key nerves, causes of the numbness, how long it lasts, and treatment options helps patients prepare for and manage any postsurgical neurosensory disturbances.
The King of Nerves
As a dentist performing wisdom teeth removal in Richmond Hill, the inferior alveolar nerve is most prone to injury during lower wisdom tooth removal. This large nerve runs inside the lower jawbone, passing below molars and wisdom teeth, providing lip and chin sensation. Trauma to this master nerve during surgery leads to various degrees of numbness. Alongside lip numbness, the taste may diminish on the affected side as taste buds depend on intact nerves.
A Numb Smile
Surgical injury to trigeminal branches innervating facial muscles leads to weakened motion on the impacted side. Depressed smiles result when marginal mandibular nerves, which move the chin and lower lip muscles, undergo trauma. This “crocodile smile” with one-sided mouth droop frustrates patients who can’t emote fully. Depending on severity and nerve healing, movement may normalize eventually. Care must be taken not to re-injure nerves during physical therapy.
How Long Till Feeling Returns?
The duration of nerve injury symptoms depends greatly on severity. Mild nerve inflammation causes short-term numbness, resolving within weeks as swelling subsides. More severe stretch injuries and partial lacerations see sensation return within a few months. However, complete nerve transection is devastating – with little hope of natural recovery, this requires nerve grafting procedures. Most numbness lasts under 6 months. However, a small percentage may never regain normal sensation due to permanent nerve damage.
Healing a Numb Nerve
Protecting and promoting recovery of damaged nerves requires diligence postoperatively. Preventing repeated trauma is key – soft foods, anti-biting guards, and avoiding extreme motions keep nerve endings safe as they mend. Light facial massage encourages regrowth. Medications may provide neural regeneration support. Laser/ultrasound therapy adds stimulation shown to aid nerve healing. If functional impacts like biting lips persist despite conservative care, surgery for nerve repair may be warranted.
Facial numbness can significantly impact emotional well-being on top of physical functional issues. Body image may be affected if an odd droopy smile results, along with embarrassment in eating and drinking. Taste changes are frustrating. Feeling emotionally off-balance is common, with unnatural numbness lingering longer than expected. Seeking support groups helps patients struggling to adjust. Therapy assists in building coping strategies for managing alterations in daily life activities due to nerve changes after critical wisdom teeth extractions.
Managing “Novocain Smiles”
A crooked, droopy grin after wisdom tooth surgery frustrates patients coping with numbness. Facial nerves impacted by traumatic extractions may sustain inflammation, stretching, or complete severing injuries during dental procedures. Such neural damage dampening facial muscle motor control contributes to temporarily imbalanced expressions termed “Novocain smiles.” Though mostly lasting under 6 months, some unlucky patients struggle with permanent smiling impairment. Seeking counseling, joining support groups with similar body image issues, and exploring facial reanimation surgery provide pathways for managing emotional and functional impacts while awaiting potential nerve regeneration. Patience and self-care help reclaim expression symmetry long-term.
The key to coping with postsurgical numbness is having realistic expectations about potential neurosensory disturbances, the timeline for improvement, and options for managing symptoms in the healing process. Understanding nerves at the root of numbness empowers patients to pursue steps for protecting injured pathways and thereby facilitating the greatest possible degree of sensory recovery after wisdom tooth removal impacts facial nerves.