Paresthesia is a temporary or permanent loss of sensation and can occur after oral surgery. Paresthesia in the mouth is described as a numbness, as if a tooth has been shot with anesthetic. However, with paresthesia, the numbness doesn’t go away after a few hours; instead, it persists for days, weeks or even months. It can bring chronic pain.
In dental cases, numbness resulting from pressure or damage to the nerve occurs most often after a tooth extraction and can affect the tongue, cheeks, lips, chin or jaw. Paresthesia mostly occurs after third molar or wisdom tooth extractions, as the roots of the bottom wisdom teeth are close to the inferior alveolar nerve canal in the lower (mandibular) jaw. Paresthesia can also occur but less frequently as a result of a dental implant procedure or anesthetic injections. A root canal can also cause paresthesia.
The risk of paresthesia is minor in routine dental extractions, and when it does occur, the effects are usually temporary. Permanent paresthesia occurs in about 1 percent of impacted tooth extraction cases.
Surgery to attempt to repair a damaged nerve is an option for treating permanent paresthesia, although there is no guaranteed result, and patients need to wait at least 6 months after the initial surgery to go back for the corrective surgery. Even with surgery, there are patients who do not fully recover and still experience some paresthesia.
The earlier you remove your wisdom teeth, the less likely you are to develop paresthesia. The older you are, the more developed the roots of your wisdom teeth are, making them more difficult to extract and increasing your risk for paresthesia. Therefore, it's better to have your wisdom teeth removed when you are a teenager than to wait until you are an adult.
If you suspect that your wisdom teeth need to be removed, it's best to see your dentist sooner rather than later. If you are already experiencing paresthesia, consult with a dentist in your area to decide if surgery is right for you.