Common Complications From Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Dentist Blog

Having your wisdom teeth extracted can be an anxiety-inducing experience – until they put you under anesthesia, of course. While the majority of patients recover from this procedure without any complications, some will develop problems. The following are some of the most common issues that could arise from wisdom tooth extraction and how they can be treated.

Dry Socket

Dry socket is the most common complication that arises from wisdom tooth extraction. After your wisdom tooth is removed, a blood clot will form over the site of extraction. If this blood clot becomes dislodged, the bone underneath will be exposed. The bone can then become inflamed and very painful. Dry sockets usually occur within two to five days after the extraction and will be accompanied by throbbing and a bad smell and taste in your mouth.

Treatment: Notify your surgeon immediately if you suspect you have dry socket. If you cannot get in right away, seek emergency dental care. This is a very painful condition and the sooner your surgeon can rectify it, the better. Dry socket can be easily soothed with packing medication or the stimulation of a new blood clot by your surgeon.

Nerve Injury

When extracting wisdom teeth, two nerves are of particular concern in lower jaw:

  • Inferior Alveolar Nerve – responsible for sensation to the lower teeth and sides of the chin

  • Lingual Nerve – responsible for sense of touch and taste to the front of the tongue and gums in the front of the mouth

Wisdom teeth that are positioned horizontally in the gums pose the highest risk for nerve damage. This risk also increases with the depth of the impacted tooth and with the length of the roots. Damage to the nerves can occur when lifting wisdom teeth (or any other tooth in the lower jaw) out of their sockets because the nerves run along the lower portion of the jaw.

Removing your wisdom teeth before they are fully developed can decrease the risk of damaging a nerve because the smaller size of the tooth makes it less likely to reach the nerve. X-rays taken prior to surgery can also show the potential risk of nerve damage.

Treatment: Nerve injuries are usually temporary, lasting a few days to a few weeks, but there are rare cases when this damage can become permanent. If you develop persistent (longer than 6 months) or permanent nerve injury, it may be possible to surgically repair the nerve. The success rate for this procedure is between 50 and 92%.

Sinus Perforation

The top wisdom teeth sit right below the maxillary sinus with a bony floor dividing the tooth socket from the sinus. When a wisdom tooth is removed, there is a chance that a piece of the bone could be removed as well. Similarly, in some people, the bony floor is missing altogether and the root of the tooth actually sits in the maxillary sinus. The extraction of this tooth will also leave a hole into the sinus. The possibility of sinus perforation is another reason why wisdom teeth should be extracted during the teenage years. The smaller the tooth, the less likely it is to penetrate the bony floor or sinus cavity.

Treatment: A dentist will take a radiograph prior to the procedure to determine where your tooth sits and whether sinus perforation is a possibility. If sinus perforation occurs, the dentist will pack the area with gelfoam, a resorbable material that promotes clotting and healing. Antibiotics will also be prescribed to prevent infections. Later, the dentist will decide to either let the hole heal on its own, or will surgically close the hole.

If complications arise following your wisdom tooth extraction, and you are unable to see your surgeon immediately, visit a clinic that provides emergency dental care to have your problem assessed. They may be able to take care of your needs or provide you with prescriptions if an infection occurs. While the chance of issues arising is small, being prepared and aware of the risks ahead of time can help you to properly handle any problems that may develop.


13 February 2015

Emergency Dental Care

The average dentist takes many client appointments each day and also deals with emergency situations on a regular basis. Dental emergencies are very common because people are likely to put off having tooth pain fixed until the pain becomes unbearable. Some people have anxiety about dental visits, and others are trying to avoid the expense of dental care. In either case, the end result is often a dental emergency. I have worked as a professional dental hygienist for many years and have seen all types of dental emergencies. I hope that this blog will help people identify potential emergencies before they become too serious and will allow people to know when to get help.