Find out if swelling after wisdom tooth removal is normal

complications of wisdom teeth after removal
Today, the extraction of wisdom teeth is a frequent procedure. Their position in the back of the mouth and direction of eruption sometimes make this procedure difficult. It is often associated with some symptoms that may cause discomfort during the first days.

For this reason, if you are wondering if what you feel after wisdom teeth extraction is normal or not, keep in mind that there is no hard and fast rule. Everyone reacts differently to extractions depending on many factors. But if the symptoms persist or worsen, you should talk to your dentist, as he is the only one who knows your case and the risks associated with the procedure better than anyone else.

Factors that determine the postoperative effects of wisdom tooth extraction

Like any surgical procedure, wisdom teeth removal can cause some symptoms later on. Fortunately, most of them are not that harmful and are part of the healing process. They can last a few days or even weeks

Contrary to what you may think, these symptoms vary from person to person. For instance, the experience of a friend or loved one after their tooth extraction may not apply to you.

There are many factors that determine the post-operative effects you will experience after the procedure, including:

If the removed wisdom tooth was infected

Although infected teeth rarely lead to complications after extraction, wisdom teeth infected with decay or gum disease are more likely to cause infectious complications after their removal.
Infection may persist after the procedure and lead to a condition called dry socket, which involves the infection of the exposed bone. It can also spread to the cheeks and cause swelling and pain.
After the tooth is removed, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to eliminate any remaining harmful bacteria.

About the extraction technique

The severity of the swelling depends on the technique used to remove the wisdom teeth. The more complex the procedure, requiring the removal of a large amount of bone, the greater the swelling and the longer it lasts.

Whether it is the upper or lower teeth that have been extracted

In general, the upper wisdom teeth have the least risk and are associated with mild symptoms after removal.
In contrast, the removal of lower wisdom teeth is more likely to result in post-operative effects or complications.
The lower jaw is naturally less supplied with blood than the upper jaw, making the healing slower and the risk of complications greater.

Smoking

Smoking is one of the main factors associated with complications after wisdom teeth removal, especially infections.
There are two issues related to smoking:
First, inhaling the smoke creates suction that destabilizes the blood clot essential for healing.
Secondly, tobacco contains a large number of toxins that affect our cells and narrow the blood vessels, which slows down healing and increases the risk of swelling and infection.

Systemic diseases

Certain diseases and conditions that weaken our immune system or affect the composition of our blood can increase the risk of complications.
For instance, people with diabetes or anemia are more likely to suffer from infections and bleeding after the procedure.
Be sure to tell your surgeon about your general condition so that he or she can take the necessary steps.

Follow-up of postoperative advice

After the procedure, your surgeon will give you some advice to guide you through the healing process. This will include instructions on diet, oral hygiene, and do's and don'ts.
It is essential to follow these tips to avoid infection or bleeding and minimize post-operative swelling.

Is swelling after wisdom teeth removal normal?

After removing wisdom teeth, swelling of the areas near the surgical site is almost inevitable. The cheeks, lips, nose, and neck may swell and become noticeably warmer.

Swelling after the procedure, also called edema, is a natural reaction of our body that is part of the healing process. It results from blood vessels widening to bring more nutrients and immune cells to the treated area.

It can cause pain in the throat or when swallowing, as the neck and face muscles can be affected too.

It may also be associated with a hematoma, which may be blue, yellow, or green in color, resulting from injury to a small blood vessel during the procedure. The intensity of these symptoms varies from person to person, as does their duration.

In the normal healing process, swelling begins following 24 hours of surgery, peaks between 48 and 72 hours, and then gradually subside to disappear completely within the first week. But keep in mind that these values are not absolute and depend on multiple factors.

Other symptoms associated with the procedure

In addition to the swelling, it is normal to experience other signs after wisdom teeth removal. The most common are:

Pain

Pain after wisdom teeth extraction is quite common, if not inevitable. It peaks as the effect of the anesthesia wear off. The intensity and duration vary from person to person, depending on the complexity of the surgery. If you have severe pain, it does not necessarily mean an infection or a postoperative complication. However, you still have to talk to your dentist so that he or she can adapt the medication to your needs. He would most likely have given you a list of postoperative instructions. Be sure to follow them to avoid aggravating the symptoms.

On the other hand, if the pain and discomfort do not decrease over time, contact your surgeon so that he can evaluate the situation and take action if necessary.

Bleeding

One of the most common complications following wisdom tooth removal is bleeding. It is normal to have some bleeding a few hours after the procedure, which may persist for the first few days.

If you are taking blood thinners or have cardiovascular disease, inform your surgeon so that precautions can be taken to avoid heavy, uncontrollable bleeding. Also, be sure to keep your mouth closed on the gauze pads for the first 20 minutes after the procedure. They help the blood clot form and stop the bleeding.

Difficulty opening your mouth

You may have difficulty opening your mouth, especially after lower wisdom teeth removal.

It is related to the swelling that occurs in the jaw muscles. It may also be due to the stress on the temporomandibular joint during the procedure.

Normally, everything should get better after a few days. If it persists, do not hesitate to talk to your dentist.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are also likely to occur after wisdom teeth removal. They usually occur within 24 to 72 hours after surgery and disappear within 24 hours.
The most common causes are taking sedatives before surgery and swallowing blood during the procedure.
To avoid this problem, eat correctly, as it sometimes occurs on an empty stomach.

When to worry?

Most of the time, the swelling is temporary and disappears as healing progresses. Despite all the precautions taken during the operation, complications can occur. Fortunately, they are rare and reversible with known treatments.
Among the abnormal symptoms that can occur after wisdom teeth extraction are:

  • Intense and constant pain, triggered by itself, without touching the surgical site. It indicates a common infectious complication called dry socket.
    It affects the bone that supported the extracted tooth and causes severe pain that does not respond to over-the-counter pain medication. Other symptoms include:
    • Bad taste
    • Swelling
    • Gum inflammation
    • Pus discharge
    • Fever


  • Infection that appears weeks after the procedure. This condition is also known as a delayed onset infection. It is rare, occurring in 0.8 to 5.8% of cases and appearing around the third week.
    It leads to a warm, red, painful swelling with pus discharge. In most cases, it results from food debris build-up in the surgical site or taking anti-inflammatory drugs after surgery.
    Although rare, you should be aware of it in the first few weeks after extraction so it can be treated at an early stage.

Prevent the complications

After wisdom teeth extraction, the most important thing is to follow your surgeon's recommendations to reduce swelling and prevent any post-operative complications. Following some tips can help you speed up the healing and reduce the discomfort.

During the first 24 hours

Physical effort can increase your blood pressure, which is not helpful for recovery. If you have a prescription, please follow it as soon as possible.

During the first 24 hours, you should not brush your teeth or rinse your mouth and spit vigorously, as this can affect the blood clot that is essential for healing. To expel the liquid from your mouth, do so gently or let it flow out easily.

You should also not drink alcohol or smoke, as this can irritate your mouth and increase the risk of complications.

You can apply ice packs to the affected area for 30 minutes every hour. This will help reduce the swelling in the following days.
Note that you should never put ice directly on your cheek. You should put the ice in a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel to avoid burning your skin.

You also have to adapt your diet. Before eating anything, it is recommended to wait until the bleeding has stopped, about 1 to 2 hours after the procedure.
Maintaining a balanced diet during the healing process is important. A healthy diet minimizes the risk of complications, helps reduce swelling, and promotes wound regeneration.
For the first few hours after the extraction, choose foods that are easy to eat, especially those with a soft or liquid texture, and avoid spicy, hot, and hard foods.

Between 24 to 72 hours after the procedure until complete healing

This is the time when the swelling reaches its peak. At this point, ice will no longer relieve the swelling. Instead, you can apply warm, moist compresses to the area as much as you can tolerate it.

Rinse your mouth 3 times a day after meals with warm salt water at about ½ teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of water. You can also gently brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush without reaching the extraction sites.

Between 24 and 72 hours after surgery, opt for a soft diet that requires little chewing, such as well-cooked pasta, pureed vegetables, soups, yogurt, and salmon.

After the first three days, the swelling will begin to subside, disappearing completely after the first week. After the second week, you can resume your eating and sports habits.