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Can a Tooth Abscess Cause Lip Numbness?

A tooth abscess can potentially cause lip numbness if the infection is big enough to compress on the mental nerve. The mental nerve does affect lip sensation and proof of that is what happens when your dentist numbs it. The result is numbness of the lower lips after they numb it.


Function of the mental nerve:

  • Provides chin sensation

  • Provides lower lip sensation

  • Provides sensation to the gums of the lower front teeth



How does a tooth abscess cause lip numbness

The only way for a dental abscess to cause lip numbness is if it happens to compress on the mental nerve, which controls the lower lip sensation. In order for this to happen the abscess has to either be close to the mental nerve and big enough to compress it.Size matters



Close to the mental nerve

The teeth which are the closest to the mental nerve and have the greatest potential for causing lip numbness are the lower premolars. The reason is because they are anatomically near the foramen of the nerve, which is where the nerve exits the bone.


Here is a panoramic x-ray showing the location of the two mental nerves:

  • As you can see, there are two mental foramens and each of them are located underneath the lower premolars.

As you can imagine, if one of the lower premolars become abscessed, the infection can grow big enough to compress on the nerve. If the mental nerve gets compressed you may get some lower lip numbness.



Size matters

A lower premolar with an abscess won't always compress on the mental nerve because sometimes the nerve can be quite a distance away from the tooth. Therefore the abscess needs to grow BIG enough to reach the nerve and then compress upon it.


Most of the time, smaller abscesses are treated right away so they never get the opportunity to grow large enough to cause you lip numbness. Thank goodness for that right?



Takeaway

It is possible for a tooth abscess to cause lip numbness if the abscessed tooth is near the mental nerve. The mental nerve controls the lower lip sensation and the teeth with abscesses that are most likely to compress the mental nerve would be the lower premolars. Therefore if you're having a strange numbing sensation on your lower lip, you may potentially have an abscessed lower premolar. You should go in for your dental check up if you're feeling that.


Author: Written by Dr David Chen, a LIC dentist in NY.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!