Can Dental Implants Cause Nerve Damage?

Posted on: 17 April 2015


Replacing teeth lost due to trauma or disease is now as easy as making an appointment with your dentist to get dental implants. Like any other type of surgery, however, there are certain risks involved with getting these replacement teeth, and nerve damage is one of them. Here's more information about this issue.

Causes of Nerve Damage from Dental Implants

According to some statistics, the risk of complications resulting from dental implants is less than 5 percent. While details about how frequent nerve damage occurs in U.S. patients as a result of dental implants are hard to come by, a British study found the rate of incidence to be around 1 percent per year in the U.K.

In general, dental implants are safe, and most people won't experience any problems with the false teeth at all during their lifetimes. In a small percentage of cases, though, nerve damage can occur in a couple of ways:

  • Direct trauma – The nerve is damaged when the implant is placed. This may be the result of a surgical error on the part of the dentist, or the implant is placed directly on the nerve and causes damage through constant applied pressure.
  • Disease – An infection occurs at the implant site that damages the surrounding tissues and nerves. The infection can be acute (occurring suddenly) or a chronic condition such as gum disease.

Symptoms of Nerve Damage

There are several different branches of nerves that connect the mouth to the brain and other parts of the face. Therefore, the symptoms a person experiences as the result of nerve damage caused by a dental implant will vary depending on where the implant is placed.

For example, a replacement molar may damage the trigeminal nerve and lead to the onset of a condition called trigeminal neuralgia. This condition is characterized by recurring episodes of intense facial pain that lasts for a few seconds to a few hours per episode depending on how advanced the condition is. On the other hand, a dental implant placed in the upper mouth may cause sinus trouble.

General symptoms of nerve damage may include:

  • Facial numbness or pain
  • Pain or numbness in the lips
  • Discomfort, numbness, or tingling in the teeth and gums
  • Difficulty controlling the mouth leading to trouble speaking, eating, or kissing
  • Unusual or altered taste which may or may not be related to an infection
  • Psychological problems such as depression or anxiety

Treating Nerve Damage

Whether or not damage caused by dental implants can be treated will depend on the severity of the problem. If the nerve has only been bruised or stretched, then the symptoms should dissipate once the nerve heals, which can take a few weeks to several months. Nerves that have been severed or otherwise irrevocably damaged, on the other hand, may require more extensive treatment such as additional surgeries to repair the problem.

If you begin exhibiting signs of nerve damage following a dental implant procedure, it's essential that you connect with your dentist and family physician as soon as possible to diagnose and treat the issue.