Inferior Alveolar Nerve (IAN): Causes & Symptoms

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The mouth is a very busy place. It performs necessary daily functions, such as eating, breathing and speaking. While the tongue and teeth get all the headlines, there are many other parts that play important roles. The inferior alveolar nerve (IAN) is one of those parts.

What and Where is The Inferior Alveolar Nerve

Merriam-Webster defines the IAN as a mandibular nerve branch that passes through the mandibular canal to the mental foramen. The chin, lower jaw, lower teeth and lower lip all have feeling due to the IAN.

Inferior Alveolar Nerve Damage Causes

Wisdom tooth extraction is one way in which the IAN can be damaged. The roots of the wisdom tooth can wrap around or push against the IAN. Nerve damage can result when this condition is present. There's also greater risk of IAN damage when a person has their wisdom teeth removed later in life. People typically get their wisdom teeth extracted during their late teenage years or early 20's. So removing them earlier rather than later is recommended by dentists. The University of Sheffield School of Clinical Dentistry (USSCD) notes that facial deformity surgery and facial fractures are two other ways, though not as common as wisdom tooth removal, that the inferior alveolar nerve can be damaged.

Inferior Alveolar Nerve Damage Symptoms and Issues

Regardless of how the IAN is damaged, there are symptoms to watch out for and pending issues that might arise due to the injury. A damaged IAN will reveal itself through pain or abnormal sensations in the chin, lower teeth, lower jaw and lower lips, according to the USSCD. Nerve damage may result in speech difficulties and/or affect chewing.

The mouth deserves the same type of care you provide to the rest of your body. A good foundation for lasting smile is to brush twice daily complemented by flossing. Consider using a powered toothbrush, like the Colgate 360° Total Advanced Powered toothbrush. It removes four times more bacteria than the leading battery powered toothbrush, and it powers away bacteria for a whole mouth clean. Lastly, remember to schedule regular dental checkups so that your dentist can monitor your oral health.

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What Are The Different Parts Of A Tooth?

Each tooth has several distinct parts; here is an overview of each part:

  • Enamel – this is the outer and hardest part of the tooth that has the most mineralized tissue in the body. It can be damaged by decay if teeth are not cared for properly.

  • Dentin – this is the layer of the tooth under the enamel. If decay makes it through the enamel, it next attacks the dentin — where millions of tiny tubes lead directly to the dental pulp.

  • Pulp – this is the soft tissue found in the center of all teeth, where the nerve tissue and blood vessels are located. If tooth decay reaches the pulp, you usually feel pain and may require a root canal procedure.