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What Does The Mandibular Nerve Do?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

When you have a dental procedure like getting a filling, your dental professional will likely numb that area of your mouth with a local anesthetic to ensure you have a comfortable, pain-free procedure. But when they numb that area, where is it going? If your procedure is on the lower part of your mouth, the anesthetic is going into a major nerve called the mandibular nerve. Find out how this nerve affects your oral health and how it may come into play during specific dental procedures.

Mandibular Nerve Function

What does the mandibular nerve affect? The mandibular nerve supplies both motor and sensory information, which means it’s linked to movement and senses. One of its most essential functions is controlling the movements of the muscles that allow you to chew. These include the masseter, the lateral and medial pterygoids, and the temporalis muscle. This nerve also carries sensory fibers from the lower lip, lower teeth, gums, chin, and jaw, which allow you to feel pain, touch, and temperature changes in and around the mouth. Additionally, this nerve transmits sensory information from the back portion of your tongue, though a different nerve is responsible for taste.

Location and Structure

Located at the base of the brain and running along the lower jawbone (mandible), the mandibular nerve branches from the trigeminal nerve, the cranial nerve responsible for sensation and motor functions in the face. It consists of several branches, including the auriculotemporal nerve, buccal nerve, medial pterygoid nerve, nerves to the temporalis, masseteric nerve, lingual nerve, and inferior alveolar nerve.

Mandibular Nerve Complications

Facial nerves such as the mandibular not only allow you to chew and feel sensations, but they also warn you when you may require dental treatment by sending signals of pain or discomfort to the brain. However, if you suffer from ongoing facial pain or are concerned about the side effects of dental surgery, speak to your dental professional.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

  • When you suffer an injury, nerves convey that information to the brain as signals of discomfort or pain. Unfortunately, that means when branches of the trigeminal nerve are damaged or pressed by other bodily structures, it can result in a painful condition called trigeminal neuralgia. This condition is chronic pain in the facial area, including the teeth, gums, cheeks, forehead, and lips. The pain attacks may range from short, mild episodes to constant burning sensations or periods of intermittent pain that last months. Pressure from an adjacent blood vessel, facial trauma, surgery, stroke, aging, or multiple sclerosis can trigger the onset of trigeminal neuralgia. After diagnosis, physicians can prescribe medications to block the pain signals to your brain or surgery.

Dental Implants

  • According to an article in Compendium, surgery to place dental implants in the lower jaw runs a small but notable risk of damaging the mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve. Dental implants are artificial teeth that dental professionals fix to titanium posts and insert into the jawbone. If the oral surgeon drills too close to the mandibular nerve branch (called the inferior alveolar nerve), the patient can suffer long-term effects. Some of these effects include a burning or prickling sensation and persistent numbness. Rest assured that your oral surgeon will do everything they can to avoid putting pressure on or damaging the inferior alveolar nerve during surgery.

Wisdom Teeth Removal

  • Wisdom teeth removal may result in injury or bruising to a branch of the mandibular nerve, specifically the inferior alveolar nerve or the lingual nerve. A patient may experience numbness, taste disturbance, a tingling sensation, or heightened sensitivity after the procedure. However, according to the Journal of Oral & Maxillofacial Research, most nerve injuries of this kind recover within six months, and in rare cases take up to 24 months. If you think you’re experiencing nerve damage after a wisdom teeth removal, talk to your dental professional.

As you now know, the importance of the mandibular nerve in dentistry is evident—it branches out to areas of your lower jaw that help you taste, chew, and feel sensations. If you ever feel like you’re experiencing pain or odd sensations in your mandibular nerve, reach out to your dental professional. If not, now you know a little more about this fascinating part of your oral anatomy!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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