Nerve Repair Surgery

New techniques in nerve repair surgery are available that significantly increase the success of restoring feeling and function to the tongue, lower lip and chin after injuries sustained during dental surgery. Dr. Lee is the first in the Cincinnati Region to offer surgical repair utilizing new donor nerve grafts and nerve connectors from a biotechnology company, AxoGen, Inc. AxoGen’s donor nerve grafts are prepared using a proprietary process that makes them compatible with the patient’s own nerve and promotes the regrowth of injured nerve tissue.

Dr. Lee has undergone advanced training in order to implement AxoGen’s new, state-of-the-art nerve grafting protocols using their proprietary nerve grafts that are more successful and easier to place. The success of obtaining functional sensor recovery following early nerve repair has been reported to be as high as 80%, and in some studies, reaching 93% when the injury was repaired within the first month. For older injuries, protective and functional sensory recovery is higher too, giving new hope to patients who have experienced nerve damage from the extraction of wisdom teeth or the placement of dental implants.

Injuries to the nerves that supply feeling to the tongue, lower lip and chin are often not treated. These nerves are sometimes injured during dental procedures like tooth extractions and dental implant surgeries. Injuries to these nerves can be very disturbing for patients because they affect tongue movement and speech and can psychologically impair patients because they can no longer enjoy the sensation of kissing. Many patients complain of embarrassment when they eat because they can’t feel food in their mouth or the occasional piece of food on their lower lip or chin. It is estimated that there are more than 1.4 million injuries to these nerves every year with thousands upon thousands of them being permanent and problematic for the patient. Why do so many injuries go untreated?

The simple answer is that until now, the “cure has been worse than the disease.” Surgical repair was difficult, requiring special surgical skills in microsurgery. Nerve tissue to replace damaged areas was hard to obtain and hard to work with, especially in the back of the mouth. Most disturbing was the fact that success was elusive. The total return of feeling to the affected area rarely happened. In fact, the return of any feeling was not a sure thing…

Early management of the nerve injury is essential for improved outcomes with nerve repair surgery. Unlike past “wait and see” protocols for known or “witnessed” nerve injuries new guidelines stress more rapid decision making aimed at repairing injured nerves within 8 to 10 weeks.

Fortunately, most nerve injuries to the tongue, lower lip and chin are now repairable. Click here for a case study and contact the Cincinnati Center for Corrective Jaw Surgery today to discuss this technology-driven advance in Trigeminal Nerve repair.