Facial Numbness After Jaw Surgery, Explained By This Dental Specialist

Jaw surgery can seem pretty daunting. However, if you are looking for a solution to correct an overbite or underbite related to jaw alignment, you may be considering it. 

It can be a scary, albeit effective treatment that aims to improve jaw and dental function and appearance. A DoctorxDentist reader, who has been considering surgery, has parents that are against his decision due to the possible risk of permanent facial numbness.

Is there a solid basis for such claims? Can jaw surgery really carry this risk and if so, how can this risk be minimised? Dental specialist and oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr Ho Kok Sen responded. Here is what he had to say.

All surgeries can carry some form of risk

 

dental model of teeth

Jaw surgery should not be viewed as an exception. However, the process can be a safe oral surgical procedure when done by a well-trained, experienced oral surgeon. In any case, you should be briefed on the possible risks by your specialist. [1]

Yes, numbness is a side effect but it is usually temporary

bearded man looking to one side

In many instances, facial numbness is a side effect of jaw surgery. This form of numbness is typically temporary in nature and, for upper jaw surgery, includes areas such as the cheeks, upper lip, and teeth. Lower jaw surgery, on the other hand, can lead to lower lip, chin, and possibly tongue numbness. [2] [3]

Numbness can take between 2 - 12 months to fade

closeup of a man


The time it takes for numbness to subside varies. This depends on whether you have had lower or upper jaw surgery. Numbness can take anywhere between 2 to 12 months to fade or longer, so patience is a necessary trait in patients who undergo this procedure. [2] [3]

Permanent facial numbness could occur because of nerve damage

closeup of a girl smiling with teeth



In rare cases, permanent facial numbness is possible once a nerve is damaged. This is very uncommon but the risk is there. [4]

Your dental specialist will carry out an extensive examination

woman smiling widely



To further evaluate the structure of your jaw, your dental specialist will usually perform a CT scan during consultations to evaluate where the nerve runs in your jaw and your jaw’s overall structure. This lets your dental specialist advise you on the level of risk of permanent facial numbness. [5]

smiling man with a beard



Ultimately, the possibility that you will experience permanent numbness after jaw surgery is very slim.

Do note the factors that determine the success rate of an operation, such as the experience of the dental specialist in charge, and the natural structure or nerve placement on your jaw.

It is best to seek a proper consultation and understand the complications that may be possible with such a surgery before committing.

 

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References: 

1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Jaw surgery. Jan 3, 2019. Accessed March 2019.

2. Greg K. Essick, DDS, PhD, Ceib Phillips, MPH, PhD, Timothy A. Turvey, DDS, and Myron Tucker, DDS. Facial Altered Sensation and Sensory Impairment After Orthognathic Surgery. March 27, 2007. Accessed March 2019.

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All content posted is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. This Q&A is not a patient consultation and any information provided herein is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical professional. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment.

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