How Can Your Dentist Prevent Nerve Irritation Before and After Implant Surgery?

While every medical surgery carries an inherent amount of risk, dental implant surgery is one of the safest procedures out there, with a 98% success rate. Not only are the success rates good, but dental implants can last you a lifetime with good care. However, it's understandable that you'd want to know all the risks involved so that you and your dentist can plan for a successful treatment. Nerve irritation is one possible side effect after surgery. See why some patients are more susceptible to nerve irritation and how your dentist can prevent issues before and after implant surgery.

Which Patients Are at Risk for Complications Involving Nerve Branches?

Nerve irritation is not a common side effect; and if it happens, it's often temporary. However, some patients may be at risk for chronic nerve irritation due to previously existing conditions. For instance, if a person suffers from a temporomandibular disorder (TMJD), then he or she may experience pain sensations through the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve runs through your face and is tied to muscles in the jaw, the temporomandibular joint, and the sinuses. So if you have dysfunction in the TMJ, you may have overly sensitive facial nerve branches. If you have implant surgery that affects the trigeminal nerve, it may have trouble healing due to the painful side effects of TMJD, like teeth grinding.

Another patient group that may be at risk for nerve irritation is those who have insufficient jaw bone, like people who've suffered bone resorption after wearing dentures. In the lower jaw, you have an alveolar nerve branch. This nerve branch tends to shift closer to the gum line when there the jaw bone shrinks. Because this nerve branch migrates, it can increase the risk of chronic nerve irritation if an implant is placed.

How Can Your Dentist Help?  

If you are in a demographic that is more likely to develop nerve issues, you may think you aren't a good candidate for dental implants. However, there are many things your dentist can do to prepare you for the best possible outcomes. For example, one study found that pharmacologic methods, like antidepressants and anticonvulsants, were able to reduce pain in TMJ patients who'd suffered neuropathic pain after surgery. Early pharmacological intervention after surgery greatly reduced discomfort and pain.

Do you have insufficient jaw bone density? If so, then your dentist may recommend a bone graft before your implant surgery. Bone grafts can help to protect the alveolar nerve branch and they provide good support for the implant itself. If you aren't a good candidate for a bone graft, then your dentist could use mini implants instead. Mini implants work the same way as traditional implants except they are smaller and aren't placed as deeply into the jaw bone. Some people may even prefer them since they are less expensive. The main downside is that they can require a longer healing time after placement.

If you don't want to depend on medications, bone grafts, or mini implants, you could consider a nerve repositioning (nerve lateralization) surgery before implant placement. During this procedure, your dentist would redirect the nerve branch so longer implants could be placed in the jaw bone without causing problems.

As you can see, while some patients may be at risk for nerve irritation, there are treatment routes your dentist can take before and after implant surgery to help you.