Potential complications of wisdom tooth extraction
When wisdom teeth begin to grow (at the age of 17 to 22), another 28 permanent teeth already stay at their own places. That is why sometimes the jaw has no longer enough room for the full wisdom teeth to erupt, leading to a situation when the teeth were impacted, or grow horizontally or only partially. People call these teeth "affected wisdom teeth".
Because wisdom teeth are located in the innermost position, it is difficult to clean them with a regular toothbrush. In the long run, the wisdom teeth would get cavities and cause pain.
Not to mention, it can affect other teeth and gums, causing a series of dental problems such as swollen gums, gingivitis, broken or chipped teeth, etc. Thus, the dentist usually requires a wisdom tooth (third molar) extraction.
Complications after getting a wisdom tooth extraction
While many people experience complications after a wisdom tooth extraction, fortunately, they are not so serious. You only need to return to the dentist if found the surgery area has:
1. Alveolar osteitis (dry socket)
This is the most common complication of wisdom tooth extraction. You are at risk for alveolar osteitis if:
- Not following the instructions of the dentist after extractions.
- You are a smoker.
- You are over 25 years old.
- Your wisdom tooth extraction is a difficult one, which takes a lot of time and techniques to complete.
Alveolar osteitis causes a dull ache in the gums or jaw. Occasionally intense pain spreads to one side of the face. Sometimes the pain is accompanied by an unpleasant taste or smell coming from the hollow socket.
Alveolar osteomyelitis occurs when a blood clot does not form in the socket, dislocates or breaks and disappears. You will feel less pain in 1-2 days after tooth extraction, but the pain begins to increase from 3 to 5 days after surgery.
This is because the blood clot has disappeared and the healing process has been interrupted. At this point, if you look at the socket, you may see bones (instead of blood or gums) exposed. This is the "dry socket" or alveolar osteitis.
The dental solution is to cover the socket with a gauze, change it regularly until the wound is completely healed. There is also proof that using a mouthwash containing chlorhexidine (antiseptic) helps reduce the likelihood of developing alveolar osteitis.
2. Paresthesia (temporary or permanent nerve damage)
Some patients after getting wisdom tooth extraction are affected by paresthesia (numbness due to nerve damage). This occurs when the nerves near the root are bruised or injured during surgery.
Paresthesia can lead to temporary loss of sensation in the tongue, lower lip or lower jaw. That means you no longer feel pain, nor distinguish hot or cold temperature in this area. Fortunately, paresthesia does not affect tongue movement, pronunciation, nor does it deform your face.
Paresthesia usually lasts a few days, weeks or months. In particular, there are some cases of permanent paresthesia if the nerve is seriously damaged. Older patients (over 35) are at higher risk of paresthesia because their tooth roots are longer and closer to the nerves.
Every tooth extraction area comes into contact with saliva and foods containing bacteria. The infection is usually because of not removing food debris in the wisdom tooth area before extraction. The infection spreads to the side of the oral cavity, attacking soft tissue.
This condition appears from 1 to 3 weeks after surgery with an incidence of nearly 6%.
When a wisdom tooth is removed, it bleeds a lot of blood. Depending on whether the gums have a cut or not, the dentist will decide whether or not to have surgery. Normally, just use gauze to absorb the blood within 30 minutes after surgery and the bleeding will stop.
However, if not handled properly, the wound will continue to bleed several hours later, soak up the gauze and you cannot do anything about it.
When you see the wound continues to bleed without signs of stopping, return to the post-operative room and let the dentist check it. He/She may need a few stitches to completely seal the wound.
5. Temporary local swelling, causing pain and difficulty opening the mouth
This is considered a normal phenomenon after the extraction of wisdom teeth, especially when it is an affected tooth. You will notice that not only the gums around the teeth but also your cheeks and lower jaw are all swollen. This condition would take a few days to be gone.
If you find your face is enlarged a lot, apply an ice pack to soothe the soreness. Steroid injections can reduce the extent of gingival swelling but cannot help with the facial swelling.
6. Jaw fracture
In the case of a partial (or a whole) wisdom tooth impacted into the jawbone, the dentist will have to perform a complicated procedure: removal of a part of the bone to make it easier to access the affected tooth, which requires high skills.
If you deal with a dentist with low professional ability, you are more likely to have complications of a broken jaw. At that time, you may need to be hospitalized and have additional surgery to stabilize the broken jawbone.
7. Tooth fragment
For some reason, the dentist cannot extract the entire tooth, he or she has to drill and cut the teeth into pieces, then remove the pieces one by one. In this process, there may still be some pieces of the teeth left in the socket. If not handled, it will cause infection.
Although rare, several patients had died during tooth extraction. The reason is that their bodies react to the anesthetic used before tooth extraction.
Dental care after getting a wisdom tooth extraction
In order not to experience complications after the extraction of the third molar, it is important to follow the dentist's instructions about dental care. Here is the dentist's advice:
- Bite firmly on the gauze pad covering extraction site for at least 30 minutes after surgery. If blood is still draining afterward, bite a damp tea bag for another 30 minutes. The tannic acid in tea bags will help form blood clots by constricting blood vessels. Avoid excessive oral muscle movement during this period.
- Take painkillers every 3-4 hours. Stop using them if you have a rash or other side effects.
- Do not rinse mouth vigorously, nor use saltwater on the first day after tooth extraction. From the second day on, you should rinse your mouth 5-6 times per day, especially after meals.
- If you are nauseous, do not drink anything for at least an hour after surgery. You can then sip a cup of tea or ginger ale. After nausea subsides, you can eat thin porridge or drink milk.
- Stay away from hard, brittle foods such as nuts, candies, cookies, etc. increase your intake of soft foods which are high in calories and protein.