If your tongue is still numb days following dental treatment, this is not normal and you need to contact your dentist.
After a dental treatment, the tongue can be quite numb and heavy-feeling, and it may take several hours for the numbness to completely wear off.
But what if it’s still there a few days later?
“A numb tongue can occur for several reasons following dental treatment,” says Marco L. Tironi, DDS, who practices dentistry in Rochester, MI.
“In short, the tongue is innervated by a nerve called the lingual nerve. This nerve supplies general sensory innervation to the anterior [front] two-thirds of the tongue.
“The nerve follows a specific path from the base of the skull along the inside of the mandible and emerges under the tongue.
“Along the path, the nerve is in close proximity to where dental anesthetics are placed to anesthetize the lower teeth for various dental procedures.
“It also often comes close to the location where wisdom teeth surgery is performed.
“Due to the location of the nerve and its proximity to where certain dental procedures are performed, there is always an inherent risk of having some transient ‘numbness’ of the tongue following treatment in these areas.”
What to Do when Numbness in a Tongue after Dental Treatment Hasn’t Worn Off
Dr. Tironi explains, “The risk is very low when special precautions are taken during treatment. Solutions to this numbness vary depending on duration and severity, but often range from medication to surgical repair of the nerve if severely damaged.”
Whenever my tongue was numb after dental treatment, it always returned to feeling normal before I knew it.
At my last dental appointment, however, the dentist just happened to mention that there’d be no numbness of the tongue because she was doing things differently this time – and that the prior way of anesthetizing was no longer necessary.
I asked, “Are you sure this will be enough?” after she injected the anesthetic in what seemed to be just one location.
She assured me it was sufficient. And it was. I never felt a thing during the procedure (removal and replacement of a mercury filling).
So ask your dentist next time you’re scheduled for treatment if it’s truly necessary to place the injection in an area that will leave the tongue numb.
But remember, it’s very rare that nerve damage would result that would require surgical repair.
A member of the Academy of General Dentistry, Dr. Tironi is trained in sedation dentistry, dental implantology, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.