Many patients can receive dental implants without requiring additional procedures. When you consult an oral surgeon in San Diego about receiving dental implants, he or she will evaluate the amount of bone mass you have left to determine if you’re a good candidate for this permanent solution to tooth loss. Even if you do not have sufficient bone mass, you may still be able to receive dental implants safely. However, your oral surgeon may need to reposition the nerve in your lower jaw.
Reasons for Nerve Repositioning
The inferior alveolar nerve stems from the mandibular nerve and is located in the lower jaw. It’s responsible for allowing sensation in the lower lip and chin. If you are planning on receiving dental implants to replace the two back molars or premolars, your oral surgeon will need to evaluate whether there is sufficient bone mass not only to support the implants, but also to prevent any part of the implant from connecting with the inferior alveolar nerve. If the implant touches the nerve, it can result in facial pain, numbness, and other troublesome symptoms. If it is likely that the implant will touch the nerve, then the oral surgeon may recommend moving the nerve. A bone graft might also be recommended to build up the jawbone before it receives the implants.
Procedure for Nerve Repositioning
As with any type of maxillofacial surgery, the oral surgeon will provide extensive preoperative instructions to the patient. Patients may need to quit smoking and temporarily discontinue taking certain medications. To begin the surgery, the doctor will thoroughly anesthetize the area to prevent the patient from feeling any pain. Then, the surgeon will need to expose the nerve and the vessel canal by drilling a small hole in the bone. The inferior alveolar nerve is then very carefully moved to one side. This allows the surgeon to place the implants while keeping a close eye on the position of the nerve bundle.
Complications of Nerve Repositioning
Although nerve repositioning is designed to reduce the risk of complications from the placement of lower jaw dental implants, it’s important for patients to understand that nerve repositioning itself is not without its risks. Merely touching the nerve to reposition it can inflict damage. Nerve repositioning procedures do frequently result in numbness of the jaw and lower lip area. This numbness can slowly resolve, although in some patients, it may be permanent.