Nerve Damage After Wisdom Teeth Extraction: Be Alert, But Not Alarmed

Some people are quite fortunate with their wisdom teeth. They might have adequate space in their dental arch for a third molar, without overcrowding the rest of their teeth. Such a wisdom tooth will have fully erupted as well, meaning it's possible to clean it as you would any other tooth. But most patients will undergo wisdom teeth extraction the moment their third molar starts to pose a threat (primarily in the form of discomfort, indicating an infection of the tooth and/or its surrounding gingival tissues). Are there any specific risks involved with extracting a wisdom tooth?

Root Removal 

A tooth's roots must be removed when the tooth is extracted, otherwise, you're going to experience a recurrence of your infection. This makes wisdom tooth extraction a precise art since the tooth's roots can be both irregularly configured and expansive. There's also the fact that a wisdom tooth's roots are typically adjacent to some major nerve groups.

Affected Nerves

Nerve damage following a wisdom tooth extraction certainly isn't a foregone conclusion, yet it's still important to know the signs of this damage, allowing you to report it to your dentist. If it occurs, this nerve damage is generally experienced by your inferior alveolar nerve or your lingual nerve. The nerve may be directly irritated by the syringe used to administer anesthetic, or any tools used to extract your wisdom tooth. Alternatively, postoperative swelling may be compressing the nerve. 

Difficult to Spot

The anesthetic you receive will effectively mask any sign of nerve damage, which means that you might be unaware of any problems until your anesthetic has worn off. Even then, it won't necessarily be clear, as nerve damage is hard to distinguish from the typical discomfort that can follow a tooth extraction. Lingering discomfort that's experienced alongside a loss of sensation in the affected areas of your mouth (a sense of numbness) should be reported to your dentist as possible nerve damage.


The good news is that while your dentist should be informed, nerve damage after a wisdom tooth has been extracted tends to correct itself. Your dentist might recall you to their office to chart your recovery progress, and you may need temporary pain relief, but the affected nerves should restore themselves, meaning your sensation will progressively return to its previous levels. Should the damage be more severe than initially suspected, your dentist can discuss your treatment options with you.

It's not like you should conclusively expect nerve damage after having a wisdom tooth extracted, because it's not an issue for the majority of patients. Though they might be a little difficult to spot, it's important to know the signs, so you can keep your dentist informed.