Nerve damage in dental negligence claims
Dental implant treatment and inferior alveolar nerve damage compensation
The inferior alveolar nerve is a branch of the mandibular nerve. If the inferior alveolar nerve is blocked or damaged this will cause numbing of the lower jaw. During dental procedures, anesthesia is administered near the mandibular foramen causing blockage of the inferior alveolar nerve and the nearby lingual nerve (supplying the tongue). This causes patients to lose sensation in their teeth and their lower lip and chin while the dental procedure is carried out.
However, traumatic inferior aveolar nerve injury following dental implantation occurs in between 6% and 13% of patients. Of these patients around 55% will suffer only mild nerve damage consisting of paresthesia and increased sensitivity in their upper lip and chin on the side the injury occurred. For patients with mid nerve damage they will recover function of their nerve within 4 weeks; around 40% will suffer moderate nerve damage consisting of non-ceasing post implantation numbness in their upper lip and chin and under 5% will suffer from severe permanent nerve damage.
Prevention of damage
In order to prevent traumatic nerve injury during dental implantation, proper localisation of the nerve before the procedure is an essential preventive step. Conventional radiography is most commonly used to achieve this
Additionally, practitioners should perform standard neurosensory examinations, before and after treatment, to determine any degree of change in sensation. This will include simple tests such as the patient determining the location of a light touch to the face or the direction of a brush’s movement, or feeling heat and cold.
If traumatic damage does occur, therapy should begin with removal of the proximate cause. The cause of the nerve injury may be inflammation, infection or the implant itself. Dentists should therefore treat patients for these symptoms by prescribing anti inflammatory medication and/ or antibiotics where appropriate.
In moderate or severe cases inferior mandible canal decompression can be performed. In patients with moderate nerve injury canal decompression is likely to be successful with a recovery of function of the nerve within 28 days from surgery. However, in patients with severe nerve injury nerve function is unlikely to recover even following canal decompression.
If you would like further information regarding nerve injuries following dental treatment please contact the medical negligence team.