4 Signs of a Facial Nerve Injury

It’s probably more common than you think. Facial nerve injuries can have a significant impact on your daily life. The specialty team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates of Nevada, with offices in Summerlin and East Side Las Vegas, Nevada, are often tasked with using their extensive surgical skills to provide treatment for facial nerve disorders.

These Harvard-trained surgeons share expert insight regarding the role of your facial nerves in speaking, chewing, and expressing yourself, as well as four common signs and symptoms of facial nerve injury.

Role of your facial nerves

The trigeminal nerve, which has three divisions, is responsible for various movements and sensations in your mouth, face, and jaw.

The ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve, for instance, transmits sensory information to your brain from your upper eyelids, forehead, and scalp. The maxillary nerve controls motion and sensory information from your cheeks, upper lip, and nasal cavity. The mandibular division of the trigeminal nerve provides sensory information and motor (movement) function to the ears, lower lip, chin, and jaw.

Depending on the damage done, facial nerve injuries can affect several areas of oral and facial function. They may occur due to trauma, certain cancer treatments, or conditions such as Bell’s palsy. 

More rarely, the damage may be linked to wisdom tooth extraction, corrective jaw surgery, and other dental procedures. Signs and symptoms of damage may begin within moments to hours of the injury.

Four signs of facial nerve injury

1. Pain

Often compared to an electrical shock, nerve (neuropathic) pain is a shooting, stabbing, or burning discomfort in areas linked to the distribution of the damaged nerve. In the case of facial nerve trauma, these areas may include the:

Neuropathic pain is difficult to address and often does not respond to traditional pain medicines, such as over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen.

2. Hypersensitivity or decreased sensation

Facial nerve damage can cause numbness or lack of feeling in the tongue, gums, cheeks, jaw, or face. Conversely, an injury may also result in heightened sensitivity in the same areas. This can make even the lightest touch on the skin’s surface extremely uncomfortable.

People with diabetes experiencing similar pain in their legs due to peripheral nerve damage often report immediate and exquisite pain if a sheet brushes their feet when sleeping.  

3. Loss of taste

Your facial nerves play a critical role in your ability to taste the foods and beverages you consume. Facial nerve damage can also affect the way you sense texture on the front portion of your tongue. This can significantly impact the appeal of many foods you eat.

4. Loss of facial muscle movement

Lack of motor function due to nerve damage, as well as the loss of sensation and other symptoms linked to facial nerve injuries, can greatly interfere with your ability to speak clearly or smile. These issues also create problems with chewing and swallowing.

Treating facial nerve injury

Effective treatment for facial nerve injuries depends on the underlying cause and the persistence and severity of your symptoms. If your symptoms last longer than expected or fail to respond to medication and other conservative treatment, your Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates specialist may eventually recommend surgical repair to restore facial nerve function.

For an accurate diagnosis and top-level specialty care for facial nerve injuries, schedule an evaluation at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates of Nevada today.

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