No matter how straightforward and common dental implants have become, it's still a very involved process. It's not as though a dentist just inserts an implant into your jaw and calls it a day. The anatomical structure of your mouth is crucial for correct implant placement, and you will require diagnostic testing before the implant can be placed. What happens when an implant is placed too close to a nerve?
Diagnostic Testing Prior to Implant Placement
Much of your suitability for a dental implant is determined by the density of the part of your jaw that anchors your dental sockets (known as the alveolar ridge). Your dentist will perform a panoramic X-ray of your mouth, often in conjunction with a periapical radiograph targeted at the site where the implant is to be placed. Your dentist may also perform 3D imaging of your jaw using a technique known as Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT). These diagnostic tools are concerned with determining the dimensions and density of your jaw, however, they also identify adjacent nerves and arteries, allowing these to be avoided during implant placement.
Too Close to a Nerve
Even with the most comprehensive diagnostic testing, it's possible for a dental implant to be placed too close to a nerve. You may not be immediately aware of this. You will have been given an anesthetic for the implant surgery, and you will then continue to require pain medication for a brief period as you recover. Nerve damage caused by dental implant placement typically presents as a numb feeling in your jaw, and this will likely have been masked by your pain medication and general recovery. So while any discomfort may have subsided, remaining numbness can be a sign of nerve damage.
What To Do
If you should experience a persistent feeling of numbness as you recover from your dental implant surgery, you must contact your dentist. It's highly possible that you're experiencing nerve irritation, as opposed to nerve damage. In this case, the numbness will subside before long. If it continues, then your dentist will need to perform a few checks. Some adjustments to the implant may be possible, although it might also become necessary for the implant to be removed, before being reinserted at an alternative angle.
While nerve damage is rare and generally limited to a feeling of numbness, it's important to be aware of the possibility. In many cases, nerve irritation will subside without treatment, but nerve damage will require some modifications to your implant.
For more information on dental implants, contact a dentist in your area.