Having your wisdom teeth extracted doesn’t need to be scary or painful, particularly if you’ve done your research and understand the best ways to go about your recovery. It’s usually the case of improper cleaning and care after an extraction that cause pain or swelling. So when we’re discussing pain incurred from wisdom teeth we can talk about two things – pain prior to any procedure (the discomfort caused by crowding or impacting that may lead your dentist to recommend an extraction) and pain after an extraction procedure (namely dry socket or other complications from a poorly cleaned post-operative area).
In the case of wisdom tooth pain PRIOR to any procedure, you should be aware of the following symptoms of potentially impacted development:
- Pain or Stiffness – Pain or stiffness of the jaw can indicate impaction
- Irritation – Irritation caused by a tooth coming in at an odd angle or rubbing on the nearby tissue or tongue
- Infection – Infection around an impacted tooth can happen when the tooth only partially breaks the skin and doesn’t fully develop. The skin around the developing tooth is opened up and germs can easily enter and cause infection and pain.
- Crowding – This is similar to pain or stiffness as the teeth around the impacted area are pushed together.
In the case of pain AFTER an extraction procedure, be aware of the following symptoms/conditions as they may impede your recovery. If you notice these symptoms or conditions and they persist longer than expected, contact your dentist or oral surgeon for a consultation or advice. In many cases at-home remedies are enough to ward off major concerns, but in some cases your oral surgeon may need to re-open the recovering wound to reduce swelling and take care of any infected tissue.
- Post-Operative Bleeding – As one would expect, there will be bleeding at the site of extraction. However, it should lessen over a period of three days – this change can be noted when changing gauze pads. Since the blood needs to clot, be sure not to over-rinse or disturb the open wound too much. Doing so may simply lengthen your recovery time. If bleeding persists at the same volume after the first day, consult your physician/dentist/oral surgeon immediately.
- Offensive Odor & Taste – This is normal given the clotting happening at the wound site and can persist up to a week or two after surgery, growing noticeably less over time. A follow up visit after a week or ten days is probably a good idea to make sure that the healing process if progressing.
- Dry Socket – A painful inflammation of the alveolar bone (not an infection) that often occurs when the blood clot is dislodged. Thought doctors aren’t sure why dry socket always occurs, they do know that triggers such as blowing your nose, using a straw, smoking, or spitting that cause the pressure inside your mouth to change can aggravate the situation. Following your dentist/oral surgeon’s recommendations exactly can often help you avoid this painful condition. Contact your dentist/oral surgeon immediately if you think you are experiencing this condition.
- Swelling – Though swelling is expected, prolonged swelling or swelling that occurs after a few weeks can indicate an infection. Infection can occur if a bone chip or other debris has remained in the wound after the procedure. If your swelling continues or actually increases after a few weeks, contact your dentist immediately.