What Is the Mandibular Nerve?

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  • Written By: Shelby Miller
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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The mandibular nerve is a nervous system vessel responsible for transmitting information between the lower face and jaw and the brain. A division of the larger trigeminal nerve, this nerve serves several of the muscles involved in chewing and speaking as well as the skin of the chin, bottom lip, inside of the cheek, and the temples. This means that it sends information in two directions: sensory input from the skin and mucous membranes is directed toward the brain, and motor signals from the brain are directed toward the muscles.

Branching off of the fifth cranial nerve, also called the trigeminal nerve, the mandibular nerve is situated entirely within the head. As the biggest of the 12 cranial nerves, the trigeminal nerve has three major branches: the ophthalmic, maxillary, and mandibular nerves. These split off the trigeminal nerve at roughly the height of the eye socket and deep to the ear, with the ophthalmic supplying sensation to the eye and forehead region, the maxillary providing sensation to the nasal and upper jaw region, and the mandibular transmitting sensation to the lower jaw and chin, to the mucous membranes of the tongue and inner check, to the sides of the face and temples, and to the muscles of these regions.


The mandibular nerve is largely a sensory vessel, meaning that is carries electrical signals from the skin and surfaces of other tissues to the brain. These signals, known as nerve impulses, communicate such sensory input as pain, pressure, and temperature. It also features a more minor motor division transporting nerve impulses in the other direction, signals from the brain telling the muscles of the face and jaw to produce chewing or speaking motions or to form expressions.

To accomplish these things, the mandibular nerve depends on multiple smaller branches. It is only a vessel of transport between these vessels and the trigeminal nerve. Examples of mandibular nerve branches include the medial pterygoid nerve, which supplies the pterygoid, a major muscle of chewing; the buccal nerve, which returns sensory information from the skin of the cheek and from the teeth, specifically the second and third molars; and the lingual nerve, which innervates the tongue.

Some of these branches, such as the medial pterygoid, split directly off the main trunk of the mandibular nerve. Most, however, occur after the nerve separates into its anterior and posterior sections, with the buccal, lateral pterygoid, masseteric, and temporal nerves found in the anterior division and the auriculotemporal, lingual, inferior alveolar, and myohyloid nerves branching off the posterior division.


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Post 4

I have a friend who suffers from trigeminal neuralgia, and it makes him miserable. He feels pain in both his maxillary and mandibular nerves, and it makes him really irritable.

I was having lunch with him once when it happened. He bit into a sandwich, and suddenly, he had to spit it out and stop eating. He said he was feeling stabbing pains in his cheek and jaw on one side of his face.

He tried to eat again after a few minutes, but the pain returned. I cannot imagine being unable to eat when I'm hungry. That would make me irritable, too.

He even said that he sometimes gets the pain at night, and it keeps him awake. Food and sleep are two of the most essential, enjoyable things in life, so who could blame a person for being cranky without them?

Post 3

@OeKc05 – It's a good thing that you can resist the urge to eat for awhile, because cheek biting is horribly painful. I didn't know until reading this article that the same nerve that supplies the jaw and lip also supplies the cheek, but I did know that whenever I bit my cheek accidentally while chewing, my whole face seemed to get in on the pain.

What's worse is that after you bite your inner cheek once, you are more likely to bite the same area again. It swells up, and the part that you bit pokes out just enough to make it vulnerable to your teeth once more.

Post 2

My dentist deadens my mandibular nerve before doing any major work on my teeth. My cheeks go numb, as well as my lower lip and my gums. Sometimes, part of my tongue will go numb as well.

The shot hurts a little, but I would much rather endure a moment of pain than agony the entire time he works on me. The numbness lasts for several hours after he is done, so I don't worry about the feeling coming back during the procedure.

I do hate not being able to eat anything until the feeling returns, though. For some reason, I always get so hungry after I get out of his office. It's probably because I know I can't eat, or else I might bite my cheek and bleed without knowing it.

Post 1

So this must be the nerve that lets me know when my TMJ is acting up. I have had this sometimes painful jaw problem for years, and though it doesn't hurt all the time, when it does, the pain is intense.

Every time I open my mouth wide, my jaw will pop. This isn't painful in itself, but there are times when my jaw gets stuck open for a few seconds, and that hurts. It's also terrifying, because I feel so powerless and vulnerable in those few moments.

I've gone through periods of pain that lasted several days. During that time, my facial nerves were very active, because I felt a constant throbbing leading from my jaw to my cheek. Ibuprofen helped a little, but it wasn't a cure.

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