I recently took a call from a potential client who suffered what appears to be a lingual nerve injury after she received a dental implant in the lower jaw. While this is unusual, the fact that she received a nerve injury after the placement of a dental implant in the lower jaw is not as uncommon as one might believe. A recent study in the U.K. revealed that about 1% of dental implant procedures performed each year result in nerve injuries.
The number of dental implants installed in the U.S. and around the world is increasing at a rapid rate. Implants can replace lost teeth and are preferred over bridges and other dental devices because implants are permanently screwed into the jawbone and more readily mimic real teeth than a bridge or other device can. This allows the implant to promote a strong bone structure around it and the patient is much less likely to suffer from bone resorption (or bone loss around the area of the missing tooth) after the loss of a tooth when a dental implant is installed rather than a bridge.
However, with this added benefit comes added risk. If the dentist installing the implant does not comply with the standard of care when installing the implant post, dental nerve injury can result. If someone suffers a dental nerve injury from a dental implant, they often suffer from numbness and pain in the jaw, lips, mouth, gums, teeth and chin areas. Although it is less common, someone who suffers a dental implant nerve injury can also suffer from pain that radiates up from the lower jaw and up into the ear and head. While this type of injury is less common, it is almost always a much more serious and debilitating nerve injury and much more difficult to treat due to the transitory (moving) nature of the pain and symptoms. In addition, if the cause of this painful condition is not addressed quickly, the pain can be permanent and result in a significant negative impact in the quality of life. Many of these injured dental implant clients wind up with constant pain and discomfort for the rest of their life.