Numbness After Wisdom Tooth Removal

Once you've had your wisdom teeth removed, you may experience numbness for several hours. This is likely a side effect from the anesthetic that was administered during the procedure, and may cause numbness, tingling, or a "pins and needles" sensation. If this numbness lingers for more than a day, you may actually be suffering from temporary paraesthesia. This condition should disappear shortly, though it could last for a few hours, day, or even months. In rare occasions, this sensation may not be resolved with time, deeming it permanent paraesthesia.

What is paraesthesia and why does it occur?

Oral paraesthesia is an oral sensation that occurs after dental surgery. This altered feeling occurs due to nerve damage inflected during the surgery. The lingual and mandibular nerves are at risk of being damaged during oral surgery. Both of these important nerves run across the bottom of the jaw, but they differ in where they extend. The mandibular nerve branches out to the lip and chin, while the lingual nerve lies close to the tongue. The risk of getting paraesthesia is dependent upon the nerves position in relation to your wisdom tooth. If the nerve is either close to the tooth itself or to the surrounding tissue, there is a greater possibility of experiencing paraesthesia.

What does paraesthesia feel like?

If you have paraesthesia, you will experience prolonged loss of sensation in the tongue, lip, and/or chin. This can include the loss of feeling, taste, temperature, and pain. Some sufferers describe it like being 'numbed' with anesthetic. This sensation may not dissipate after a few days, and could instead persist for an extended period of time.

When will it go away?

This answer to this concerning question is fortunately positive in most cases. Paraesthesia normally lasts for only a few days or weeks. However, in rare cases it may last for more than 6 months or may even in rare cases be permanent. Permanent paraesthesia is very rare and only occurs in 0.5-0.9% of wisdom tooth surgeries.

How to remove the numbness

Unfortunately, you can only wait and see what manifests. While waiting, it is important that you don't stress, which may be quite hard. Try to think positively about the outcome, and remember that the chances of permanent paraesthesia are below 1 per cent.

If the paresthesia lasts for more than 6-12 months, surgery may be an option. The success rate fluctuates, but an average of 50-90 percent of cases are successful. However, complete feeling is very rarely regained after surgery; only partial feeling returns.

What factors make paraesthesia more likely to occur?

Individuals over the age of 25 are actually more prone to paraesthesia. This is because older individuals have wisdom teeth that are fully formed, making them harder to extract. This can result in damage to the surrounding nerves due to the complexity of removing the fully formed wisdom tooth.

Research suggests that a lower wisdom tooth removal is actually riskier than an upper wisdom tooth removal. This is caused by the close proximity of the lower wisdom teeth to the mandibular and lingual nerves. Furthermore, if your lower wisdom teeth are slightly angled towards the tongue, then there is a greater risk of damaging the lingual nerve.