A numb chin is generally a sign of a disorder within the nerves of the face. Disruption to these nerves can cause symptoms within the chin or sides of the face, including numbness.
The causes of numb chin vary widely. Minor bumps or damage that cause swelling may lead to temporary numbness in the chin. In some cases, a numb chin may be a sign of a more serious condition or infection.
Long-term chin numbness, called numb chin syndrome, may indicate other more serious underlying health conditions, such as cancer.
People experiencing chronic chin numbness should see a doctor for a full diagnosis. A doctor can identify any underlying conditions and prescribe treatment.
Keep reading to learn more about nine of the more common causes of a numb chin.
Numb chin syndrome (NCS) is a rare neurological condition. It causes damage in the mental nerve, which controls the chin and lower lip.
A person with NCS may experience a tingling or stinging sensation in their chin as if it has fallen asleep. Sometimes, the chin may go completely numb. Symptoms may also appear in the lips, teeth, or gums.
NCS is generally a symptom of an underlying condition, such as cancer. NCS has links to the following cancers:
- lung cancer
- breast cancer
- prostate cancer
- kidney cancer
- thyroid cancer
- malignant melanoma
- head and neck cancer
A study in Synthesis notes that where NCS is a symptom of cancer in adults, breast cancer accounts for 64% of the cases, and lymphoma accounts for 14%.
Many doctors also see numb chin syndrome as a red flag that a cancer has returned or spread. Understanding that NCS has links with metastatic cancer can help doctors make an early diagnosis.
In some cases, the symptoms may also be the result of a benign tumor, which is a growth of non-cancerous cells.
If a person experiences numbness in their chin, their doctor will likely do a thorough physical examination and ask lots of questions. Once they have ruled out certain other conditions, they may run tests for cancer.
If a person has already received a previous cancer diagnosis, doctors will run tests to see if the cancer has spread.
Testing for cancer generally includes both blood tests and imaging tests, such as CT scans and MRIs.
A numb chin may also be a side effect of some forms of anesthesia, especially anesthesia for dental work.
Someone who receives a local anesthetic for dental work may feel a temporary tingling sensation in their chin, or they may lose feeling in the chin completely. These effects resolve as the anesthetic breaks down and passes out of the body.
The numbing effect of dental anesthesia may linger longer in some people, but any numbness should resolve quickly after the procedure.
Sometimes a chin may go numb due to trauma or injury in the jaw area. A fall or a blow may cause damage to the tissues in the face, resulting in swelling. The inflammation could put pressure on the nerves in the face, leading to a numb chin.
Treating any underlying wounds or injuries may help to reduce swelling. This will likely eliminate the numbness as well. Lingering symptoms may be an indicator of damage to the nerves.
Sometimes, a person may experience nerve pain or numbness in a part of the chin after a tooth extraction. Removing a tooth can cause trauma in the area, which may lead to inflammation or damage in the surrounding nerves. This is most common with wisdom tooth extraction.
As the area heals, the pain or numbness should subside.
A tooth or gum abscess is a pocket of pus that builds up in the tissues in the gums. As the abscess grows, it may cause inflammation that puts pressure on the mental nerve, leading to symptoms such as a tingling or numb chin.
Treating an abscess should relieve pressure on the nerve and ease symptoms. If left untreated, an abscess may progress and spread the infection to other areas, such as the bones or even the brain.
Sometimes, issues in the nerves of the chin may occur due to poorly fitting dental implants, replacements, or dentures. These may put pressure on or move the teeth or jaw, which could disrupt other tissues and nerves.
Anyone experiencing a numb chin due to dental problems should speak to a dentist. Ensuring that implants and dentures fit correctly should help resolve symptoms.
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body is unable to make enough insulin or use insulin properly. This results in high blood sugar, which can cause a range of complications, such as damage to the nerves, or diabetic neuropathy.
This damage can occur in any nerve. Symptoms commonly occur in the hands and feet, but diabetic neuropathy can also affect the head.
If neuropathy from diabetes damages a nerve in the head, it may cause a range of issues, including vision changes, pain or numbness in the face, or difficulty controlling the muscles.
Depending on where the damage occurs, a doctor may recommend medications to control inflammation or treat symptoms.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases note that many focal neuropathies that do not involve a trapped nerve do not require treatment. People usually recover on their own within a few weeks.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition in which the immune system attacks the protective sheath covering the nerve fibers in the body. This can occur on any nerves throughout the body.
When the immune system attacks nerves that control the chin or face, numbness or tingling in the chin may develop. There is no cure for MS, but treatment may help slow attacks or speed a person’s recovery from attacks.
Several other issues may also cause a numb chin, though they may be less common. Other possible causes include:
Some minor incidents, such as trauma to the chin or other parts of the face, may compress the nerves and cause temporary inflammation, leading to numbness in the area around the chin.
Anyone who experiences chronic symptoms or a numb chin with no apparent reason should see a doctor for a full diagnosis.
Severe nerve damage that leads to a numb chin may not go away completely. Doctors may recommend ways to reduce any pain from the nerves or treat other symptoms.