Possible Wisdom Teeth Complications
Extracting wisdom teeth is common, and this routine surgical procedure can often be completed with no complications, though there are times when complications arise. In many cases, patients can reduce or even eliminate the likelihood of complications arising by carefully following instructions for aftercare following wisdom teeth removal. When complications do arise, seeing your dentist promptly can also have significant effects on reducing side effects and ensuring effective healing. There are some common symptoms that indicate that something is amiss following a wisdom teeth extraction, and keeping an eye out for these symptoms is an important part of thorough, effective healing. Many of the issues that arise may be indicated by swelling or bleeding from the extraction site or by numbness in the jaw, though there are more specific symptoms that correspond with other complications.
While some levels of swelling or discomfort should be expected following any oral surgery procedure, including wisdom tooth extraction, these symptoms should diminish after a few days. In most cases, pain and swelling that arise after any tooth extraction can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications, though some dentists may prescribe pain medication following more complex procedures. If you notice pain or swelling after a few days, check in with your dentist; they may want to examine your mouth and check for any issues with surgery or with your healing.
Sustained pain and swelling can be a sign of a few different issues. One of the more notorious complications caused by improper aftercare following wisdom teeth extraction is a dry socket, which can cause swelling and which almost always causes pain – usually extreme pain. After the wisdom teeth are extracted, blood clots develop in the surgical sites. These blood clots protect your jaw while it heals, kind of like a scab helps an external cut heal, and it’s imperative to leave them alone and let them stay in place and do their job. If this healing blood clot is dislodged, the nerves inside the oral tissues are exposed, causing intense pain and completely interrupting healing. If you notice throbbing or particularly sharp pain at a surgical site, contact your dentist right away. The most common cause of dry socket is smoking after surgery, as the consistent, intense sucking motions of smoking can easily dislodge a fresh blood clot; for this reason, drinking from a straw is also not recommended while healing from a wisdom teeth extraction.
Other potential risks of wisdom teeth extraction include reduced mobility in the jaw, excessive bleeding, and numbness in the lips. While numbness in the lips is rare, if the alveolar nerve in the jaw is irritated or damaged during surgery, the lips or jaw can grow numb. This complication is usually temporary and very rare. It’s relatively common for patients to experience temporary stiffness in the jaw after wisdom teeth extraction, as the mouth is held open for a long prolonged period during this surgery, but if you are unable to fully open your mouth for more than a few days after surgery, contact your dentist. Patients often find relief from massage therapies, heat therapy, pain medications, muscle relaxers, or mechanical solutions like devices that open and support the jaw. Similarly, while some amount of bleeding should be expected after surgery, your adherence to aftercare instructions will limit the duration of this bleeding and help healing blood clots form more readily. Follow all recommendations for dietary adjustments and behavior modification, and see your dentist if bleeding persists for more than a day after surgery.