I recentley had an impacted wisdom tooth removed surgically, it has been 3 weeks and the side of my tongue is still numb with no feeling and I can’t open my mouth very wide and it still hurts, is this common and what should I do?
– Duncan from Florida
The nerve that goes to your tongue (the lingual nerve), as it comes into your mouth, goes very near the wisdom teeth, and it can be damaged during a surgical wisdom tooth removal. It doesn’t travel the same course in everybody, and sometimes it even travels directly on top of the wisdom tooth, making it difficult or impossible not to damage it.
So your next question would be will it heal, and how long it will take. That answer depends on how badly it was damaged. If the nerve was stretched or bruised, it takes about a month or so for it to recover. If it was crushed, it may take up to a year to recover. If it was cut, then the cut parts of the nerve are likely never to grow back together. Sometimes, with a cut nerve, there will be some growth in the nerve over time back into the area it used to go to, but usually not.
There is also a microsurgical procedure to try to repair the nerve. It’s a difficult surgery, but sometimes it works. You could ask about that, if that’s important to you.
I’m hearing you saying that you have no feeling at all in the side of your tongue. At this point, three weeks after the surgery, the nerve damage could be any one of these things I listed. If you just have kind of a numb feeling, but there is tingling feeling in the side of the tongue, that’s an indication that the nerve is damaged but is repairing itself.
Not being able to open your mouth very wide at this point is a different issue. Inability to completely open your mouth is called trismus, and it can mean several things. Usually, it’s just that the swelling during the healing was pressing against muscles and keeping you from opening all the way. But if this inability persists, and the general swelling has gone down, I would look for the possibility that you have a resistant node of infection deep in the tissues pressing on some of your muscles. I’d recommend getting a strong dose of antibiotics to take for about two weeks–something like Clindamycin that is really powerful against resistant bacteria in the mouth.
– Dr. Hall
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