Lingual nerve damage is frequent complication after dental extraction; the most common is after third molar extraction. Lingual nerve can also be damaged during facial surgery, or as a result of facial fractures. This nerve is a branch of one of the twelve cranial nerves called trigeminal nerve. It provides sensation to the tongue. It also carries sensation of taste from the front part of tongue to the brain.
An injury to lingual nerve can result in loss of taste, burning sensation in the tongue, heaviness in cheek etc. Infections and metabolic disorders may also precipitate lingual neuropathy.Lingual nerve damage is temporary in majority of cases, however if the nerve is severed, it can lead to permanent loss of taste, speech difficulty and pain.
What Causes Lingual Nerve Damage?
Lingual nerve provides sensation to the tongue. It also carries taste impulses to brain. Lingual nerve injury is a complication arising from various problems. Here are following causes of lingual damage:
- Tooth extraction, especially the molars.
- Anesthesia used while extracting tooth.
- Infection and metabolic diseases.
- Since it is the branch of trigeminal nerve, herpes infection affecting trigeminal nerve may cause damage to lingual nerve.
- Surgery for removal of tumor in mouth.
- Fracture of mandible.
- Dental implants.
- While performing laryngoscopy or intubation.
- Chemotherapy and radiation.
What Does Lingual Nerve Damage Feel Like?
Lingual nerve damage can be a temporary phenomenon as observed after an anesthetic block given for tooth extraction. Once the anesthetic agent is injected at the site, the area becomes numb. Even half of the tongue feels numb after few minutes. This may remain for one or two hours till the effect of anesthesia lasts after which sensation is completely established.
However, many times the nerve may get damaged for a longer duration and in some cases permanently. Patient may experience loss of taste. There are frequent episodes of throbbing and aching pain and tingling in tongue.
The patient is unable to speak properly and masticate. The nerve carries impulses to the brain to tell the muscles of mastication and tongue to move. However, when the nerve is damaged, this function is lost or critically reduces.
Treatment Options For Lingual Nerve Damage
Recovery from lingual nerve injury may happen within a week time in majority of cases, if the nerve is not severed or completely damaged.
When the damage is mild to moderate following things help:
- Corticosteroids: Oral corticosteroids are prescribed by the doctor to reduce the inflammation. However, they are useful in first two to three weeks after the injury.
- Local applications of gels: Capsaicin has been used as local application gel to desensitize the painful area prevalent in lingual nerve injury. Also application of topical clonazepam gel has proven to alleviate burning pain in tongue and cheek caused due to lingual nerve injury.
- Many time doctors prescribe anti depressant medicines together with other treatment measures.
- Vitamins have proved valuable for treating symptoms of lingual nerve damage. Vitamin B1 is known to reverse the effects of nerve damage in many cases. Vitamin B12 is known to protect the nerve endings and prevent further damage as well as enhances healing of injured nerve. Niacin or vitamin B3 has the same function of improving and strengthening nerve endings.
- Homeopathic medicine Hypericum is time tested remedy for nerve injury. Arnica helps to relieve pain tongue and cheek caused due to damage to lingual nerve.