Lingering Numbness After A Dental Visit: What's Causing It?
There are some aftereffects to most dental procedures. Sometimes this is perfectly logical. Oral surgery can be invasive and requires healing and sufficient recovery time—with some discomfort being an expected aftereffect. Even something as benign as professional teeth cleaning can lead to temporary dental sensitivity. Any aftereffects should fade away relatively quickly, so it's curious when they persist. Why might your mouth stay numb after visiting your dentist?
Some deliberate numbness is very welcome during your dental procedure. This is achieved with an injection of an appropriate anesthetic (such as novocaine) into the soft tissues of your mouth. The best injection site is determined by the nature of the work that's about to be performed. For example, if your dentist must numb your lower (mandibular) jaw, your lingual nerve is likely to be the preferred injection site.
Your Lingual Nerve
In addition to your mandibular jaw and gums, your lingual nerve also regulates sensations to your lower palate (the floor of your mouth), as well as the front part of your tongue. Residual numbness and tingling after a dental procedure can suggest damage to your lingual nerve, caused by the syringe. Although this is unlikely to be painful, your ongoing symptoms can still be noticeable and even distressing. These symptoms should be reported to your dentist.
Minor Nerve Damage
Lingual nerve damage caused by an injection of a dental anesthetic is an unforeseen (and unfortunate) side effect of your dental treatment. Suspected nerve damage must be assessed by your dentist, but these cases don't usually require intervention. The lingual nerve can heal itself after minor trauma, so your numbness and tingling will gradually subside, before disappearing entirely. In the future, your dentist may utilize a different form of anesthetic to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
More Serious Nerve Damage
Should damage to the lingual nerve be more severe (as evidenced by your level of numbness, along with its failure to subside), then your dentist has a few options for you. Don't worry, because the most likely solution isn't invasive or complicated. To aid the lingual nerve's healing process, some patients will benefit from a corticosteroid (a type of steroid) to reduce nerve inflammation and speed up recovery. Again, your dentist may need to use an alternative form of anesthetic in the future.
Your mouth should only feel numb for the duration of the anesthetic's effectiveness. If your numbness doesn't quickly fade, please contact a dentist.