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Risk factors associated with injury to the inferior alveolar and lingual nerves following third molar surgery—revisited

Published:January 25, 2010DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tripleo.2009.10.010

      Objective

      Earlier reports, including a preliminary study within our unit, have shown that the surgeon's experience is one of the most influential factors in determining the likelihood of both permanent inferior alveolar nerve (IAN) and lingual nerve (LN) paresthesia, following third molar surgery. The effect of this and other factors influencing such prevalence are assessed in this study.

      Study design

      This prospective study involved 3236 patients who underwent surgical removal of impacted third molars. Patients' demographics and radiological parameters were recorded along with the grade of the treating surgeon. The prevalence of inferior alveolar and lingual nerves paresthesia at 1 month, 6 months, and 18 to 24 months postoperatively were also traced.

      Results

      At 1 month postoperatively, the incidence of IAN paresthesia was 1.5% and the LN was 1.8%. These figures decreased over time and 18 to 24 months postoperatively, the incidence of permanent dysfunction of the IAN was 0.6% and LN was 1.1%. With regard to inferior alveolar nerve paresthesia, risk factors included the patient's age (26-30 years), horizontally impacted teeth, close radiographic proximity to the inferior alveolar canal (IAC), and treatment by trainee surgeons. With regard to the lingual nerve, risk factors included male patients, distoangular impactions, close radiographic proximity to the IAC, and treatment by trainee surgeons.

      Conclusion

      One of the main risk factors of developing permanent sensory dysfunction in the distribution of these nerves is related to the surgical skills/experience of the operator. Other factors are associated with the type of impaction and the radiographic proximity of the tooth to the inferior alveolar nerve. Such long-term complications can affect the patient's quality of life; the impact on profession, education, and research is unknown.
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