The tongue is an important element of the human body and it has many functions. Among other tasks, the tongue helps to clean the mouth, it enables us to speak; it also gives us a sense of taste. One of the most vital components of the tongue is the lingual nerve.


Function of the Lingual Nerve?

The lingual nerve is responsible for the senses in the tongue. It is located near the sides of the tongue. The lingual nerve branches off the mandibular nerve and transmits taste to the brain.

 

The lingual nerve supplies the front two thirds of the tongue. When you eat or drink something, the nerve picks up taste information and sends it to the brain via a branch of the facial nerve. The information is then sent back to the majority of the tongue, allowing you to taste the food.


Location of the Lingual Nerve

The lingual nerve begins under the lateral pterygoid muscle (a muscle of mastication) in front of the inferior alveolar nerve. The nerve then joins up with a section of the facial nerve. It then runs past the medial pterygoid muscle and mandible (jaw) and crosses to the side of the tongue.

The lingual nerve then passes under the constrictor pharyngis superior (a muscle in the pharynx). The nerve continues to run between the hyoglossus and the submandibular gland (salivary gland). It ends beneath the tongue’s mucous membrane.


tongue

Lingual Nerve Injuries

It is unlikely that the lingual nerve will become damaged naturally, due to its protected location. Normal mouth movements, such as talking, yawning or eating food, will have no detrimental effects on the nerve. Most lingual nerve injuries occur after an oral surgical procedure has been carried out.

Various operations can injure the lingual nerve. This will result in pain or numbness, and a loss of senses. A loss of taste is the most common symptom which is likely to affect the individual’s quality of life. Most lingual nerve injuries due to surgery are temporary. However, in a small proportion of incidents, the damage will be permanent.

Conditions such as trauma, infection and autoimmune disorders can also damage the lingual nerve. Some of the more invasive cancer treatments are also harmful to healthy nerves and lead to symptoms developing.

Damage to the lingual nerve could cause a condition known as Glossodynia. A typical symptom is a burning sensation on the surface of the tongue. Surgery may be required to rectify this condition if caused by nerve damage.

Symptoms of a lingual nerve injury include:

  • Numbness of the tongue
  • Mouth pain
  • Loss of taste
  • Problems with speech
  • Burning cheeks or tongue
  • Decreased salivation

Dental Surgery

Tonsillectomy

Cosmetic Surgery

Cancer Treatments

Trauma

Infection

Autoimmune Disorders

Is Lingual Nerve Damage Permanent?

When the lingual nerve has been damaged it will usually repair itself over a period of time. It takes six to twelve weeks for nerves to repair; they generally grow at a rate of 1mm per day. However, if symptoms last for more than six months, the injury is probably permanent and untreatable.

It’s worth noting that, even if the lingual nerve repairs itself, your sense of taste can still be affected. A nerve that is repaired will never fully recover; it will still remain weak and be prone to further injury.

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Are There Any Treatments for Lingual Nerve Damage?

If the lingual nerve has been damaged during a surgical procedure, there are some treatments available. Laser surgery can be used to restore some of the taste that has been lost due to the nerve damage. Not all patients will benefit from laser surgery, although a clinical study has concluded that it is successful in many cases.

Microsurgery is also effective in repairing damaged nerves; surgical advancements in the field are being made all the time. Surgeons can now stretch the two ends of a damaged nerve and join them up. The nerve will then knit together and become stronger over a short period of time.

If the lingual nerve is too badly damaged the surgeon may decide that a nerve graft is the best course of action. A donor nerve is used to connect the two ends of damaged nerve. The nerve graft promotes good healing and the nerve will begin to regrow naturally around the graft.

Vitamins have also been used to successfully treat nerve damage. Increasing the amount of vitamin B in your diet may help recovery. Vitamins B6 and BA12 are essential ingredients for building and maintaining healthy nerves. Boosting vitamin levels is not a guaranteed treatment but it does help some patients with nerve damage.


Final Thoughts

Now you have more information about the lingual nerve. You know what it does, where it is located and how it can become injured. We also told you some of the ways that the lingual nerve can be repaired after it has been damaged.

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