Background. Placement of mandibular endosseous implants can result in damage to the lingual nerve, the inferior alveolar nerve or both nerves. All dentists who place mandibular implants should be aware of the appropriate early management of these injuries, as well as the appropriate time to refer patients with these injuries to a microneurosurgeon. Overview. The lingual nerve is less likely to undergo spontaneous regeneration than is the inferior alveolar nerve, which is protected within the inferior alveolar canal. Since the inferior alveolar canal can be seen on most panoramic radiographs and on all high-quality computed tomographic scans, it is easier to avoid damage to the inferior nerve than to the lingual nerve, which is not visualized on radiographs and whose relationship to the posterior portion of the mandible varies from person to person. Results. The authors reviewed one study that showed that lingual nerve repair helped 90 percent of patients. A second study found that patients who underwent lingual nerve repair reported a mean score of 7 on a scale from 0 to 10 in regard to the postoperative return of nerve function. Several other studies reported favorable patient responses to inferior alveolar nerve repair. Conclusions and Clinical Implications. These results reinforce the need for early referral and intervention when inferior alveolar nerve injuries occur. Failure to refer patients with trigeminal nerve injury before distal nerve degeneration develops prevents minimization of the injury through microneurosurgical repair.
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