Getting dental implants is a big decision for many reasons, but one factor that people often overlook is the risk involved. Granted, dental implant surgery has a very high success rate, but it’s important to remember that it is a surgical procedure and, as with other surgeries, there are some risks. One potential complication of any surgery is nerve damage, and this is true of dental implant placement as well. Here’s what you need to know about dental implants and nerve damage.
What Is Nerve Damage?
When a nerve is damaged during a surgical procedure, it’s referred to as a peripheral nerve injury. A nerve may be injured during a surgery, or it could be severed completely. The vast majority of nerves that are injured but not severed will heal on their own without medical intervention, while a severed nerve represents a more serious injury.
Your nerves send messages from your brain to the rest of your body. We have nerves that help us move (motor nerves), understand our environment (sensory nerves), and control our bodily functions (autonomic nerves); the nerves most likely to be injured during dental implant surgery are motor nerves and sensory nerves. A motor nerve injury may mean having trouble moving part of your mouth, while a sensory nerve that is injured typically produces either numbness or tingling. When a nerve is severed during dental implant placement, it can result in pain and even impact overall quality of life by causing impaired speech, drooling, and bothersome sensations.
Causes of Nerve Damage
There are several ways in which nerves can be injured during and after dental implant placement. The surgery itself can result in a severed or damaged nerve—this often occurs when drilling in the lower jaw is too deep and the inferior alveolar nerve is injured. This is a serious injury that can cause a great deal of pain. Prompt treatment is necessary, but even then, the injury may be permanent.
Once the implant fixture is implanted in the jaw, the fixture can injure a nerve through compression. Bruising and swelling after surgery can place pressure on nerves as well. These are the types of nerve injuries that usually heal on their own with time.
Preventing Nerve Damage from Dental Implants
Fortunately, there are many steps that can be taken to prevent permanent nerve damage from dental implants. At Rio Grande Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center, we use advanced technology to protect our patients from nerve injuries. Our process always begins with cone beam scanner 3D imaging and digital x-rays, which allow us to measure the height and width of your jawbone with greater accuracy, eliminating the potential for drilling too deep and reaching the inferior alveolar nerve.
This state-of-the-art imaging is combined with our X-Guide navigation system, which allows us to plan your dental implant procedure with a “virtual surgery” that directs the exact location, depth, and angle of your dental implants. Following a detailed plan is the best way to prevent serious nerve injuries.