The aim of this study was to evaluate the degeneration and regeneration of a sensory nerve and a motor nerve at the histological level after a crush injury. Twenty-five female Wistar rats had their mental nerve and the buccal branch of their facial nerve compressed unilaterally against a glass rod for 30 s. Specimens of the compressed nerves and the corresponding control nerves were dissected at 3, 7, and 19 days after surgery. Nerve cross-sections were stained with osmium tetroxide and toluidine blue and analysed using two-dimensional stereology. We found differences between the two nerves both in the normal anatomy and in the regenerative pattern. The mental nerve had a larger cross-sectional area including all tissue components. The mental nerve had a larger volume fraction of myelinated axons and a correspondingly smaller volume fraction of endoneurium. No differences were observed in the degenerative pattern; however, at day 19 the buccal branch had regenerated to the normal number of axons, whereas the mental nerve had only regained 50% of the normal number of axons. We conclude that the regenerative process is faster and/or more complete in the facial nerve (motor function) than it is in the mental nerve (somatosensory function).
International Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 2013, Vol 42, Issue 12, p. 1566-1574