Do you know where your mental nerve is? It sounds like it might be another name for your brain, but it's actually the name of the nerve that supplies sensation to the front section of your chin, along with your lower lip. This nerve is generally surrounded by oral tissues, however long-term denture wearers might experience the exposure of their mental nerve. How does this happen, and how do your dentures affect the nerve?
1. Natural Loss of Bone Structure
The bones that support natural teeth can remodel themselves. This means that they're continually rebuilding their structure, maintaining their thickness and density. They're able to do this because of the need to support the bite pressure experienced by a person's teeth. This changes when you have dentures, and some bone loss is a common byproduct of long-term denture use. It's perfectly normal, but it can sometimes create a minor complication with your mental nerve.
2. Exposing a Nerve
Bone shrinkage in your lower jaw can expose your mental nerve. No longer protected by bone and gingival tissue, your dentures can actually come into contact with this nerve. Biting down can compress this nerve, which can trigger a sudden pain in your jaw. Once the mental nerve has been exposed, this pain will affect you in varying degrees every time you bite down. Obviously, something needs to be done.
3. Accommodating an Exposed Nerve
If your dentures need to be assessed, contact a local clinic that offers denture repair services. A dentist can perform a small modification and target the specific portion of your dentures that are compressing your mental nerve. The denture plate will be shaped to create a small hollow, allowing the nerve to be comfortably accommodated without compromising the functionality of your dentures. Additionally, the modified portions of your denture plate can have a reline material added to them. A silicone-based, soft reline material will be used to create a cushioning effect. This will further minimise aggravation to your mental nerve.
Whether someone wears dentures or not, sharp pain when biting down is clearly something you should investigate. But when you've had a set of dentures for several years, it might be that the gradual reduction of your jaw bone has exposed your mental nerve. This means that your dentures will need to be modified so that they can exist in harmony with the nerve. Contact local dentists or denturists to learn more.