(ATHENS, Ohio — Dec. 10, 2014) A $445,500 grant from the National
Institutes of Health will fund an Ohio University Heritage College
of Osteopathic Medicine study to more closely examine the effects of
nerve damage that sometimes occurs during routine dental procedures.
The lingual nerve, which runs in the floor of the mouth to enter the
tongue, can be crushed or severed during dental work, particularly
when molars are removed, causing intense pain, burning or numbness.
“Lingual nerve injuries are surprisingly common. We know the lingual
nerve senses pain, touch and temperature, and fibers also travel
with it that convey the sense of taste. We don’t know exactly how
damage to this nerve affects the function of the tongue and its
coordination with the jaw, although patients have reported that
nerve damage makes it harder for them to eat,” said Susan Williams,
Ph.D., professor of anatomy at the Heritage College and the
project’s lead researcher.
The study will use high-resolution 3-D imaging technology of
tongue and jaw movements to better understand the influence of
lingual nerve injuries on chewing and swallowing. Lingual nerve
injuries can be temporary if the nerve is compressed. However, if
the nerve is severed during a dental procedure, the damage is often
permanent, affecting quality of life. The hope is that this research
will help in the development of improved strategies to rehabilitate
those with nerve damage.
The three-year study is funded through the National Institute of
Dental & Craniofacial Research.
“Only through research can we gain new insights into health
issues that make it difficult for people to live a pain-free life,”
said Heritage College Executive Dean Kenneth H. Johnson, D.O. “We
continually seek ways to implement new technology and
long-established research methods to find answers to today’s health
The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is a
leader in training dedicated primary care physicians who are
prepared to address the most pervasive medical needs in the state
and the nation. Approximately 50 percent of Heritage College alumni
practice in primary care and nearly 60 percent practice in Ohio.
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