Anatomy And Functions Of Inferior Alveolar Nerve

We often talk about the visible parts of our mouth like teeth, tongue, and gums, but there are some important parts we don’t hear about much. One of these is the inferior alveolar nerve (IAN), which connects to your back teeth. It’s really important for your mouth’s health. Let’s take a closer look at what it does and what happens if it gets hurt.

Anatomy & Structure

Nerves in your body usually come in pairs, one on each side. Normally, we just talk about them as one nerve unless we must point out if one side got hurt.

Imagine nerves as the branches of a tree, extending and reaching out to various parts of your body. They’re like the messengers of your body, relaying sensations and enabling your muscles to move.

The inferior alveolar nerve is part of a big nerve called the trigeminal nerve, which comes from your brain. You have 12 of these nerves; the trigeminal nerve is number five. It starts at the back of your skull, connecting your brain to your spinal cord.

As it travels to your face, the trigeminal nerve splits into three branches: the ophthalmic, maxillary, and mandibular nerves. The mandibular nerve helps you chew and feel things in your head, face, and mouth.

Inferior Alveolar Nerve Damage Symptoms

When the inferior alveolar nerve gets hurt, it can cause some common symptoms, no matter how it gets damaged. You might feel pain or weird sensations in your chin, lower teeth, jaw, or lips. This can make it hard to talk and chew. If you notice any of these signs or have pain in your lower jaw, it’s important to talk to your dentist, especially if it happens post-surgery.

Functions of the Inferior Alveolar Nerve (IAN)

IAN is a mixed nerve, it multitasks and performs the following functions:

  • Motor Function
    The inferior alveolar nerve helps your mouth and jaw move. One of its branches, called the mylohyoid branch, is super important for this.
    Your mouth’s roof is made up of muscles called the mylohyoid and digastric muscles. The mylohyoid muscle helps you swallow and talk. The digastric muscles help you do all kinds of stuff with your jaw, like chewing, swallowing, talking, and breathing.
  • Sensory Function
    The inferior alveolar nerve also helps you feel things in your mouth.
  • Dental Branch: This part of the nerve makes your lower back teeth and a couple of teeth in front feel things.
  • Mental Branch: It makes your chin and bottom lip feel sensations.
  • Incisive Branch: This branch helps your front teeth and a couple of teeth next to them feel sensations.

Treatment of IAN Damage

Treating damage to the inferior alveolar nerve depends on what caused it. It might involve simple treatments or, if those don’t work, surgery. If the damage was caused by a dental implant, it might need to be removed or replaced with a smaller one.

Doctors usually try simple treatments first because surgery doesn’t always work well. These treatments might include:

  • Medicines that reduce swelling and pain, like ibuprofen and prednisone
  • Painkillers like gabapentin, tramadol, and amitriptyline
  • Taking extra vitamins or supplements like B vitamins and Ginkgo biloba

In a small study, only about 16% of people felt better with these treatments, and 70% didn’t notice much change. But those who started treatment early tended to feel better.

Bottom Line

Any damage to the inferior alveolar nerve can disrupt your quality of life. If you experience discomfort in your cheek, lower jaw, or gums long after dental work, seek immediate help from your dentist.

Visit Dr. Ravinder Kunwar at Smiles Forever Dental. Our dentist uses the latest advancements to provide a wide range of dental services, including General, Restorative, Cosmetic, Endodontic (Root Canal), and Implant Dentistry. Dial (661) 666-4433 to book an appointment.

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