Post Dental Work Numbness

About a week ago the teeth in the lower left part of my jaw were prepped for a dental bridge. Subsequently, my lower lip is still numb. I’m a little concerned. Please explain if you can.

Thanks very much.

Cheryl P.

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Dear Cheryl,

In truth when a dentist gives an injection to numb an area theynever know exactly where the anesthetic is going or where it will settle in the mouth. It is a more general area that is being numbed and theycannot control its exact location. Also, to slightly complicate this, patients are all wired differently. So their nerves do not match up patient by patent. That is why the injection is in a more general area. Sometimes during this injection a patient may experience an electric shock, if the dentist hits a “bulls eye” and delivers the anesthetic directly to the nerve. However, most do not. If the tip of the needle actually touches the nerve, it can cause a bit of a trauma to the nerve and a persistent numbing or altered sensation (paresthesia) of the tongue and lip area.

It is rare but patients can experience nerve damage during this simple dental procedure while only receiving a local anesthetic. How long it lasts depends on the extent of the damage to the nerve. A slight bruising of the nerve will heal in a few days. If the nerve is punctured, it can last a month, or sometimes as long as a year. If the nerve is severed, the damage could be permanent.

This doesn’t occur too often as the result of a simple injection. The more common cause of nerve damage is from the extraction of a wisdom tooth, where the roots of the tooth lie very close to this nerve, which can result in serious bruising or severing of the nerve.

Since this numbness has been more than a few hours, I would certainly recommend a follow up visit and check up with your dentist. That is assuming that this “numbness” that you refer to is an absolute complete lack of sensation in your lip. If you have a tingling sensation in your lip, that’s an indication that the nerve is healing and you just need to be patient until the healing is complete.

This post was provided by Elgin dentist Dr. Steve Sirin. Learn more about Dr. Sirin’s approach to dentistry.

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