The inferior alveolar nerve is a nerve that is located in the jaw region and is responsible for the sensation in the lower lip, chin, and the lingual aspect of the lower incisors and premolars. The nerve also plays a role in controlling the muscles used in biting and chewing. It is a branch of the trigeminal nerve, which is the largest of the cranial nerves and is responsible for transmitting sensory information from the face and mouth to the brain.
The inferior alveolar nerve provides sensation to the lower jaw and is important for biting and chewing, as well as speaking and smiling. In dental procedures, injury to the inferior alveolar nerve can result in numbness or loss of sensation in the affected areas. It can also cause debilitating conditions like anesthesia dolorosa or trigeminal neuralgia, which can cause extreme discomfort and drastically affect a person's quality of life.
Where is the Inferior Alveolar Nerve Located?
The inferior alveolar nerve is located in the jaw, specifically in the lower jaw (mandible). There is a canal that runs directly through the middle of your lower jaw that we call the “inferior alveolar nerve canal” or the “mandibular nerve canal.”
How Can the Inferior Alveolar Nerve Be Damaged During a Dental Procedure?
The inferior alveolar nerve can be damaged during dental procedures if it is not properly protected or if the procedure involves a direct impact to the nerve. Some of the common dental procedures that can cause damage to the inferior alveolar nerve include tooth extractions, dental implants, root canals, and jaw surgery.
Extractions are one of the most common procedures that can cause damage to the inferior alveolar nerve. This can occur if the tooth is located close to the nerve or if the dentist is not careful when removing the tooth. In some cases, the dentist may accidentally cut the nerve while removing the tooth or may damage the nerve by applying too much pressure during the extraction process.
Dental implants can also cause damage to the inferior alveolar nerve if the implant is placed too close to the nerve or if the implant is placed at an angle that puts pressure on the nerve. In some cases, the nerve may be damaged during the placement of the implant or during the healing process as the implant fuses with the jawbone.
Typically, the inferior alveolar nerve is damaged during a root canal because of overfill. However, the dentist or endodontist may also damage the inferior alveolar nerve drilling too deeply with the file and penetrating the mandibular nerve canal.
Jaw surgery can also cause damage to the inferior alveolar nerve if the surgeon is not careful when cutting through the jawbone or if the surgeon cuts too close to the nerve. In some cases, the nerve may be damaged during the initial surgery or may be damaged during the healing process as the jawbone fuses together.