If you have recently had your wisdom teeth removed, you may be experiencing some numbness around your lips, chin, and cheek areas. You are hoping that after the anesthetic wore off that these symptoms would go away, but they haven’t. Numbness after third molar extractions can be quite common, and most of the time will resolve themselves over the course of six months. But why does this happen to only some patients? In this article we will address the question, and tackle some ways to recover more quickly after your procedure.
Why do some people get numb after their wisdom teeth are removed?
In most cases, the anatomy of your teeth will determine if numbness is a potential consequence. Numbness normally occurs on the lower jaw due to a critical nerve that runs very close to the end of your lower wisdom teeth. This nerve (called the Inferior Alveolar Nerve) provides sensory receptors to our lips, gums, teeth, and lips. While your wisdom teeth are being removed, this nerve can become damaged or impinged causing paresthesia (or numbness) in the area. Your lips, and chin are typically affected by this numbness, and sometimes the cheek area is also involved.
Another major factor that causes numbness is inflammation in the area where the wisdom teeth were extracted. Once the teeth are removed, blood vessels dilate. This dilation allows for the healing process to occur, but can also lead to impinging of the nerve tissue in the area. This causes a temporary numbness that is resolved within a few months. The reason why it takes so long for the numbness to resolve itself is that nerve tissue takes a lot longer to heal than any other tissue in your body.
Remember, although the nerve is damaged, you do not need to fear. The body will heal itself, and you will recover completely in most instances.
How long does numbness last after wisdom teeth extractions?
In most cases, numbness can last anywhere between 3 months to a year, with most cases resolving themselves within 6 months. As mentioned previously, nerve tissue takes more time to heal so please be patient while your body heals itself after the procedure.
How do I get rid of numbness after wisdom teeth removal?
The following are 6 ways to speed up the healing process and quickly rid yourself of numbness after your procedure:
- Use of steroids: After your procedure, your dentist can prescribe you a medrol dose pack, which is essentially steroid tablets that significantly reduce inflammation and swelling in the areas. This will help reduce the numbness, and allow you to heal more quickly.
- Vitamin B complex: Vitamin B speeds up nerve regenerative properties of the body, and has been known to help patients with paresthesia and other neuropathies.
- Magnesium: Many patients who are prone to paresthesia or numbness may also suffer from a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium supplements may help speed up the recovery process to rid you of the numbness that you have been feelings.
- ALA (Alpha-Lipoic-Acid): This is another supplement that can reduce nerve damage and help you heal faster
- Warm Salt Water Rinses: Early on in the healing process, salt water rinses can help reduce the inflammation and swelling, and allows patients to recover faster from their surgery. Rinses twice a day for the first two weeks is recommended.
- Microsurgical nerve repair: If your nerve has been completely severed during your surgery, and you have no feeling at all, you may end up needing microsurgical nerve repair. Only a select few oral surgeons undertake the procedures, but the good news is this complication is extremely rare.
My dentist told me my chance of numbness is high, should I still have my wisdom teeth removed?
If your wisdom teeth are close to your nerve, and they are not causing you any problems, it may be prudent not to have them removed. There are procedures such as a coronectomy that allow the surgery team to remove the crown portion of the wisdom tooth, and leave the roots embedded in your jaw. This helps patients with issues like pericoronitis, whose roots are intimately close to the nerve tissue.
We hope this article took the time, and tackled some of your lingering questions. If you are having numbness after your wisdom teeth surgery, and if you need any help, call our team today.