Wisdom Teeth – Dry Socket and Other Possible Complications

There are several possible complications that can arise after having a wisdom tooth removed. A common problem after the extraction of wisdom teeth is dry socket - a very painful condition that develops when a blood clot does not form properly at the extraction site, or when the clot is lost too early.

Thus the wound (or socket) is ‘dry’.  The bone is therefore exposed and this can cause severe pain.

Dry Socket – Summary Snippets:

Look out for some of these signs to help how to know if you have a dry socket:

  • This usually arises from the second day after wisdom teeth removal.
  • The pain may spread to the ear.
  • Other wisdom tooth dry socket symptoms may include a bad taste in the mouth and bad breath.
  • It is more likely to occur when smoking within 24 hours of extraction and/or if you do not follow the after-care advice the dentist gives you.
  • If you think you have a dry socket, attend the dentist for treatment. The socket will need to be rinsed free of any food and debris and then the dentist will apply a dressing to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation in the wound.

 Graphic showing how dry socket occurs after an extraction

A few notes on prevention – To reduce the chances of getting this problem when recovering from surgery, be sure to follow the post-operative instructions you get from your dentist. These tips will include:

  • Brush your teeth use and a mouthwash before the extraction.
  • Avoid smoking for at least 24 hours afterwards.
  • Do not rinse out your mouth for 24 hours – this allows a good clot to form.

Need more advice?  See our main article on dry sockets for more on their symptoms, prevention and treatment.

 

Other Possible Complications After Wisdom Teeth Extraction Include:

  • Prolonged bleeding.
  • Bruising and swelling.
  • Infection of the gum around the tooth.
  • Damage to the nearby teeth or fillings.
  • Fracture of the root of the wisdom teeth. This piece of root is either removed or if it is small it can be left in place.
  • Infection of the bone.  This is rare in healthy individuals.
  • Pain, tenderness and tightness around the jaw joint and muscles.
  • Nerve damage with resultant numbness (paresthesia) in that area.  This is a rare complication and if it occurs it is usually temporary only.  It can affect feeling in the lower lip and chin.  It can also affect taste sensation and feeling from the tongue.
  • Jaw fracture from the force applied when extracting the tooth.  This is very rare and usually only happens in older people with weakened bone or bone disease.

 

Although long-term complications are rare, you should be advised of the risks.  Such risks will be taken into account when the decision to remove wisdom teeth is made.  You may be at particular risk of some complications, e.g. nerve injury, depending on where your wisdom tooth lies.

 

Summary

Getting your wisdom teeth removed can be quite an invasive minor surgical procedure.  As with any surgery, there are possible complications. These include common complications such as wisdom teeth dry socket, bruising and tenderness as well as rarer complications such as nerve damage. Your dentist/oral surgeon will advise you of these possibilities in general and point out any complications you are particularly at risk of.

Next – The recovery advice to follow to reduce your chances of complications

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