Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

April 13, 2018

My wisdom tooth is touching the nerve. Will it cause nerve damage to take it out?


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Hi Dr. Hall,

I am most grateful I came across this website. I have read the posts and I can’t say how much appreciation I have to see your honest and direct feedback and opinions.
I would be very very grateful if you could shed some light with your experience in my situation:
1. I have an impacted lower left wisdom tooth, I did an x-ray and the doctor (surgeon specialist) said it is close to the nerve and he recommended me to take a CT scan, which I did.
2. CT scan came back and he told me the tooth is touching the nerve (how much I don’t know), but I asked him what is the probability of damaging the nerve? He said 10% chance to damage the nerve, but after reading your blog about the risk of nerve damage, it seems like with a tooth touching the nerve – chances of damaging the nerve should me much higher? please would very very much appreciate your thoughts on this.
I am turning 30 years old this year.
One more piece of information – the impacted wisdom tooth is lying horizontal and food gets stuck there most of the time when I eat.
– Dennis

Dennis,
You referenced my earlier blog post on what are the real chances of nerve damage from wisdom tooth removal. The main point there is that the surgeon is more likely to exaggerate the chances of nerve damage rather than minimize it. I would take the 10% chance of nerve damage that he has quoted you as a fair estimate. And I would add to that that the damage would most likely be temporary. The most likely type of damage would be compression or bruising of the nerve, and not severing the nerve. I’m not saying that permanent damage isn’t possible but that it isn’t likely.

The use of CT scans is decreasing the chances of damage to the nerve because the surgeon can now tell, in advance, exactly where the nerve is in three dimensions. When I was doing this, if the nerve appeared superimposed over the tooth, I didn’t know whether it was in front, behind, touching, 1 millimeter away, or anything like that. So I had to be very cautious and allow for multiple possibilities.

Your surgeon just has to avoid any pressure in the direction of the nerve and, in sectioning your tooth prior to removal, has to stay away from the nerve. Then, post-operatively, you need to be aware that there will be swelling that could press against the nerve. If you notice any prolonged tingling or numbness after the novocain has worn off, advise the surgeon, and he will likely prescribe a steroid to hold down the swelling and minimize that pressure against the nerve.

– Dr. Hall

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

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