There are a few cases that necessitate the extraction of a patient’s tooth. These circumstances include; when the tooth causes crowding inside the patient’s mouth, when the tooth has been damaged by a brutal external force (as in an accident), or if the tooth is infected and extensively damaged.
Dental surgery is also used to address the most common sources of pain and discomfort in the mouth. Issues like jaw-joint (TMJ) can be corrected via minor dental surgery. Others like overbites and underbites, tooth replacements are also considered as part of dental surgery. The surgery can also be aimed at correcting particular sleeping and/or breathing complications. Certain facial trauma conditions can also be addressed via dental surgery.
Tooth extraction and other oral surgeries are usually standard procedures. Courtesy of the advances in medical care and practices, infection control, is now at its level best. If you’re wondering about the chances of infection after a tooth extraction, rest assured that the chances are meager. This is, of course, if you adhere to post-operation precautions given by the dentist.
When a tooth is removed from its bony socket, it leaves a hole (with the bone exposed) to heal on itself. First, the cavity left behind should usually be filled with blood, which clots to seal the cavity. This is usually the beginning of the healing process. So, what should you be ready for after dental surgery or a wisdom tooth infection?
What to expect after wisdom tooth removal or a dental surgery
After the dental surgery, there are a few things to expect. Whereas these may not precisely point to an infection, knowing them helps you know if the extent is allowable or if you need to revisit your dentist. Let’s look at each category;
- Pain and discomfort
This is possibly the first thing that you’ll experience after a wisdom tooth removal. Local anesthesia is used for dental surgeries. Once it wears off, most people experience pain and discomfort in the jaws, but especially at the point of tooth removal. This is expected for any person but to varying degrees. The pain should, however, go away within a few days.
For such pain, your dentist or dental surgeon will prescribe medication that you should take as advised. The medication may not completely alleviate the pain, at least not instantly, but is it helps it all. It is also normal for the pain to worsen after surgery before it gets better.
Just as mentioned at the beginning, when the wisdom tooth is removed, a cavity is left, filling up with blood. The blood clots to block any further bleeding.
Typically, the holes may bleed for a while before the clot is formed. We shall later see what you should do in case the bleeding doesn’t stop as expected.
After a dental surgery of any kind, swelling is always expected. The jaws are close to lymph nodes, which further makes swelling very likely.
The swelling mostly occurs at the corners of the jaws and cheeks. Usually, the swell should ease within two to three days of surgery. If the swelling is quite a problem for you, there are ways around it right from your home’s comfort. Read on to find out how.
- Trouble opening the mouth and swallowing.
After a dental surgery or having your third molar plucked, opening your mouth wide becomes strenuous for about four to five days. This is expected and should not cause you any alarm.
After the operation also, the local anesthesia or the freezing causes numbness, which in turn impacts swallowing for a few hours. When the freezing agent wears off, swallowing should be a little easier though sore and uncomfortable.
For some people, bruising can be seen at the corners of the jaws and the neck for the next few days after a dental operation. The bruising is even more pronounced for those who do bruise easily.
- Fever and a generally feeling unwell
Due to the anesthesia and the wound left behind, you can feel unwell for up to two days after the surgery. Some people report vomiting and stomach upsets. Alongside the local anesthesia, pain relievers, and sedatives administered before the operation can contribute to the fever and stomach upsets. These should clear on their own within a few days.
After the operation, there are precautions you should practice to ensure the shortest healing time and avoid complications. Let’s look into these.
Precautions after a dental operation or wisdom tooth removal
Pain and discomfort
Take any pain relievers prescribed to you accordingly. The pain may not go away wholly or instantly but resist the urge to overdose.
Bleeding continues for a few hours after the tooth has been removed. If it doesn’t stop on its own (to form a clot) or is excessive, follow these quick steps;
1. Wash and dry your hands. Sanitize with the methylated spirit if possible.
2. Cut two to three patches of gauze pad measuring 2′ by 2′. Roll the up into balls.
3. If you have more than one bleeding socket, place each of the rolled pad onto the sockets.
4. Bite onto the pads firmly but steadily for between 20 to 30 minutes, to exert pressure on the sockets.
5. Repeat this for up to three times as required.
You can use cut face cloth corners or tea bags in place of gauze pads. This method should stop any bleeding. If it doesn’t stop, consult your dentist /dental surgeon promptly.
Swelling is also expected after a tooth extraction or just about any dental surgery. To relieve the swelling, place ice cubes at the corners of the mouth 24 hours after the surgery. Occasionally, place ice wrapped in a cloth on the jaws and the face for 20 minutes and then off for 20 minutes. Repeat this during the first day. You can then reduce the frequency during the second and third days. Typically, swelling should be maximum during the latter two days.
General hygiene expectation after an oral surgery
These are general precautions that help with healing and to avoid infections.
• Avoid rinsing your mouth during the first 24 hours after the tooth removal. Rinsing before this period can easily dislodge the clot(s) of the socket(s) triggering bleeding.
• After the first 24 hours, start rinsing with warm salty water. Do not use a lot of salt; a pinch in a glass of water is sufficient. Do not spit out the water. Instead, let it lightly flow out of your mouth.
• Gradually, the incision mends, and you can rinse thoroughly and also spit.
• For one week after the surgery, rinse only with the prescribed mouth rinse and the saltwater.
• Do not brush your teeth for 24 hours after the surgery. When you resume brushing, avoid brushing the area with an incision for up to seven days.
• Sometimes temporary holes are left of the sockets. In such a case, rinse more often and thoroughly until the sockets have healed completely.
• Smoking; smoking slows down the healing process and can lead to infection after dental surgery. Smokers should avoid smoking until the sockets are entirely healed. It should be between two and three weeks.
Precautions for eating and drinking
After surgery, avoid hot food or drinks for 24 hours. You can, however, consume cold foods and drinks during the 24 hours.
After tooth extraction, eat soft foods for the first three days. Ensure these foods are the type that doesn’t get clogged in the open sockets.
During the first two weeks, do not use the regions around the open sockets for chewing tough foods, until you feel comfortable doing so.
Even after the socket has completely healed, it may take several weeks for the tissue to grow over it. During this time, food stuck in the socket can lead to bad breath and/or a bad taste in the mouth. Rinse with water as often as you can to maintain the mouth clean and fresh.
Sometimes, even after practicing good oral and general hygiene following dental surgery, an infection still occurs. The easiest way to tell if the open socket or incision has been infected is by watching for sure signs and symptoms. These infections mostly ravage people with compromised immune systems, or those suffering from conditions such as diabetes.
Infections on certain parts of the body, including the buccal cavity, can spread quickly to the rest of the body. To prevent this, these should be treated as soon as the signs start showing. Below is a list of the signs and symptoms of an infection after a wisdom tooth removal or dental surgery in general.
Signs and symptoms of an infection
If you begin seeing any of the following signs, it could be a pointer to developing an infection.
• Bleeding that goes beyond 24 hours after the surgery.
• Pulsating pain that doesn’t get better even after tooth removal or dental surgery.
• Excessive swelling in the face area and the jaw that may also spread to the neck region points to an infection.
• Oozing pus from the open socket. Pus forms after a few days, mostly two to three.
• Difficulty in opening the mouth even after the second day following operation can signify a developing bacteria infection.
• Mild fever that doesn’t die down, which increases with time
• Foul smell from the mouth. This is usually a result of the accumulated pus.
• Persistent numbness. The numbness should typically clear within a few hours after surgery or tooth extraction.
• Sometimes you may also notice blood or pus in the nasal discharge.
Whenever you notice these symptoms, do not hesitate to contact your dentist or the dental surgeon.
Complications after tooth extraction
There are specific complications that follow wisdom tooth extraction or dental surgery. The most common ones are:
1. Dry socket
Mayo Clinic reports that this is the most common complication after a dental surgery involving tooth extraction. It occurs when the clot that forms to fill the exposed socket is accidentally knocked off. This exposes the nerves at the bone leading to severe pain. Apart from the pain, bacteria can quickly attack the exposed bone tissue.
If it occurs, you should contact your dentist immediately. Some risk factors can increase your chance of developing a dry socket. These are:
• An underlying infection
• Use of oral contraceptives
• Smoking too early (less than 48 hours) after the tooth extraction
• Not following the proper guidelines regarding caring for the wound
• If you’re over 25 years
If the infection has already occurred, the dentist will prescribe antibiotics after ascertaining the root cause of the problem
2. Nerve injury
Even though it is by far less common than the dry socket, nerve injury can happen during tooth extraction or surgery near the root of the wisdom tooth. The sensory nerve that supplies sensing to the lower lip, tongue, and chin is usually located very close to the root of the wisdom tooth. For people aged between 12 and 18 years, wisdom teeth roots are usually short. This is the prime time for the extraction of these teeth.
During the extraction of wisdom teeth in older patients, the nerve may be accidentally severed. This can only be ascertained after the local anesthesia wears off. Patients usually experience a tingling numbing feeling on the lower lip or tongue. This is mostly temporary for most patients, but it can result in a permanent variation of sensation.
3. Sinus communication
Sinus communication can also be disrupted if the upper wisdom teeth are removed. These teeth are located near the sinuses, resulting in an opening when the teeth are removed. The problem is sporadic when the teeth are extracted at an early age.
If it occurs to an adult, it seals off later. There are a few precautions around this also;
• Do not blow your nose for two to three days after the surgery
• Sneeze (into a tissue) with your mouth open to avoid creating pressure in the sinus area.
Infections after dental surgery or a wisdom tooth extraction are common but can be avoided to a higher degree. Following the dentist’s precautions, as well as those listed here, will not only save you from these problems but also speed up the healing process.
You can also find more information regarding this topic from your dentist. You should also report any other strange symptoms after the surgery before it culminates to something deadly.