How To Prevent Complications Following Your Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Having wisdom teeth removed is a pretty common, standard procedure. Most people endure the process just fine and heal up properly with no major complications. However, a few do develop post-procedure complications like dry socket and infections. You can't eliminate this possibility entirely, but there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of complications after wisdom tooth extraction.

Don't remove the gauze until you stop bleeding.

After your wisdom tooth removal procedure, your dentist will pack your mouth with gauze and send you home. You don't want to remove this gauze until the bleeding stops. When the bleeding stops, you know that clots have formed. If you remove the gauze before clots form, the clots that do form may not be as strong, and you may end up developing dry socket or an infection as a result.

If you go to remove the gauze and realize that you're still bleeding, put in a new piece of gauze. Try sitting upright instead of laying back, as this should slow down the bleeding. If you're still bleeding the day after your surgery, contact your dentist.

Rinse with salt water.

Your dentist will likely recommend that you rinse your mouth out with salt water following the procedure. This is not just to alleviate pain (though it will help). It also kills the oral bacteria that may cause an infection in the empty tooth socket. Just add a teaspoon of table salt to a cup of warm (not hot) water, and swish this mixture around in your mouth, one mouthful at a time, until it is gone. Do not swish too vigorously, as this may dislodge the blood clots in your tooth sockets and lead to dry socket. Just let the mixture gently swish around in your mouth. Repeat the salt water rinse every 3 - 4 hours.

Stay away from straws.

You're probably going to be drinking a few smoothies and milkshakes as you recover from your procedure. But, you don't want to drink them with a straw. Sucking liquids though a straw creates a sort-of suction in your mouth, which may loosen your blood clots and lead to dry socket. The pain of dry socket can be pretty terrible, so eat your smoothies with a spoon or sip them from a glass instead.

Say "no" to alcohol.

Alcohol can dislodge blood clots, leading to dry mouth. Thus, it is best to avoid alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine, until your dentist tells you it is safe to indulge again. Also avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol. Use your salt water instead.

Brush your teeth when your dentist recommends doing so.

Your dentist may tell you to avoid brushing your teeth for a day after surgery, but then to resume brushing as normal. A lot of patients avoid brushing since it can be a bit uncomfortable, but it is really important that you do brush. Brushing removes oral bacteria so they don't get a chance to cause infection. Just be careful around the surgical sites, and brush the rest of your teeth as you normally would, using a soft toothbrush.

Don't smoke.

The suction action of smoking can dislodge your blood clots, plus the toxins in tobacco slow healing and put you at risk for infection. If you're a smoker, this is a great time to quit. If you must, you can use nicotine patches to curb your cravings. But don't use nicotine gum -- it still exposes your surgical sites to nicotine, which can increase your risk of complications.

Follow the tips above, and your wisdom tooth extraction recovery should do smoothly. If you do notice symptoms of infection, such as redness and pus, or signs of dry mouth, such as intense, searing pain, contact your dentist, someone like Dale D. Lentz DDS, immediately.