As an Atlanta Dental Malpractice Lawyer, I know that many so-called “routine procedures,” such as wisdom tooth extractions, root canals, crowns, and dental implants, can result in horrifying dental injuries. This is because the mouth contains many vital anatomical structures, including the lingual nerve, the inferior alveolar nerve, the mylohyoid nerve, the mental nerve, the infra-orbital nerve and the mandible or jawbone.
Many instances of dental malpractice involve damage to the lingual nerve. The lingual nerve descends from nerve centers in the brain into the lower jawbone and finally into the tongue and adjacent gums. Partial or complete severance of the lingual nerve can occur during the surgical extraction of a tooth, during the injection of anesthesia, or as a result of inflammation caused by an improper dental procedure. While less common, overfilling of the space under a tooth, during a root canal, for example, can also result in leakage into the mandible canal and result in a lingual nerve injury.
Damage to the lingual nerve or inferior alveolar nerve can result in numbness or decreased sensation in the tongue, the floor of the mouth, the inside of gums, and the lips. Clients who have experienced lingual nerve damage have experienced an inability to taste their food, to know when to swallow, to stop biting their own tongues, as well as drooling, slurred speech, and a changed appearance. Lingual nerve damage can also cause residual pain, which can decrease one’s quality of life and ability to work. This type of neuropathic pain is often worse at night, resulting in sleep deprivation and adding to the emotional burden of the sensory nerve damage.
In an attempt to regain functionality in their lingual nerve, some patients have undergone complex surgeries in which a nerve from another part of the body is removed and reinserted in their jawbone. However, these surgeries are not always successful and present additional risks to the patient.
Dentists have a duty, not only to provide competent dental care, but also to inform their patients of the risks inherent in any procedures they wish to perform. If you feel that your dentist has breached his duty to you, protect yourself by hiring an experienced dental malpractice lawyer to help you pursue your claim and redress your injuries. Once a dental nerve injury is sustained, regardless of what the cause of the injury is, it is imperative that the dentist either timely treat the injury or refer the patient out to a qualified nerve specialist (usually an oral and maxillofacial surgeon whose specialty is micro-neurosurgery of the lingual and inferior alveolar nerves). The longer a dental nerve injury goes undiagnosed or untreated, the less likely it is that the nerve specialist will be able to successfully intervene and treat the nerve.
Robert J. Fleming is an Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer who specializes in dental malpractice. If you have suffered a serious injury due to dental malpractice and wish to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact us online or call Mr. Fleming directly at (404) 923-7497.