Find out if swelling after wisdom tooth removal is normal

complications of wisdom teeth after removal
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to appear in the mouth. As there is not enough room for them to fit, they are known to cause many problems.

Extracting wisdom teeth is now a common procedure. In fact, 80% of them need to be extracted before the age of 70.

One of the most common postoperative effects is swelling. Although in most cases it is temporary and even necessary for the healing process, it can sometimes be a sign of a postoperative complication.

In this article, you will learn whether or not swelling is normal, the different potential complications of the procedure, and how to promote a faster and more successful recovery.

Is swelling after wisdom teeth removal normal?

As with any surgical procedure, swelling after wisdom tooth removal is almost inevitable. The areas that can be affected are the cheeks, lips, nose, and neck.

This swelling, also known as edema, is a natural reaction of the body. It is caused by the blood vessels dilating to bring more nutrients and immune cells to the treated area. It is also an important step in the healing process.

It can cause discomfort in the throat, especially when swallowing, as the neck and face muscles can also be affected. It can also be associated with a hematoma, which is a discoloration that appears on the skin. It can be blue, yellow, or green, caused by a build-up of blood in the area after the procedure.

Remember that there are no hard and fast rules. Our bodies react differently and what happens to others may not happen to you.

However, you can expect swelling to start 24 hours after the procedure. It will peak around 48 to 72 hours later and then gradually subside and disappear after a week.

There may be some variation from person to person depending on several factors.

Factors that determine the postoperative effects of wisdom tooth extraction

Many factors determine the postoperative effects you will experience after the procedure, including:

If the removed wisdom tooth was previously infected:

Infected wisdom teeth with decay or gum disease are more likely to cause infectious complications after removal.
Although rare, they can persist after the procedure and lead to a condition called cellulitis, in which the infection spreads to the surrounding soft tissues. Symptoms include swelling, redness, heat, pus, and pain.
After tooth removal, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to eliminate any remaining harmful bacteria.

About the extraction technique:

The severity of postoperative effects depends mostly on the complexity of the procedure. The longer it lasts, the more trauma is inflicted on the tissues, and the more postoperative reactions increase.

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

Removing lower wisdom teeth is associated with more post-operative effects and complications.
The lower jaw is naturally less well supplied with blood than the upper jaw, so it usually takes longer to heal and the risk of complications is higher.


Smoking is one of the main factors associated with complications after wisdom tooth removal.
Firstly, smoking exerts suction and pressure on the blood clot. Disturbing the blood clot can lead to a painful condition called dry socket.
Secondly, tobacco contains a large number of toxins that affect our cells and constrict blood vessels, slowing down healing and increasing the risk of postoperative complications.

Medical conditions:

Certain diseases and conditions that weaken the immune system can increase the risk of complications.
For example, people with diabetes or anemia are more likely to develop infections and bleeding after surgery.
Be sure to tell your surgeon about your general health so that he/she can take the necessary steps.

Postoperative care:

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

When to worry?

In most cases, swelling is temporary and disappears as healing progresses. Despite all the precautions taken during surgery, complications can occur. Fortunately, they are rare and reversible with known treatments.
Abnormal symptoms that may occur after wisdom teeth extraction include

  • Intense, constant, spontaneous pain:
    It indicates a common complication known as dry socket.
    It occurs 2-3 days after surgery due to loss or damage of the blood clot. It causes severe pain that does not respond to painkillers. Other symptoms include:
    • Bad taste
    • Bad breath
    • Swelling
    • Gum inflammation

  • Infection that occurs hours, days, or weeks after the procedure:
    Infection of the socket can occur a few hours after the procedure. You may find that the socket is filled with whitish residues associated with pus discharge.
    The infection can spread to the surrounding soft tissue and cause cellulitis. This is a painful condition that can be associated with swelling, pus, redness, and a feeling of warmth.
    Infection can also occur weeks later. This is called delayed onset infection (DOI). Studies show that it is rare, with an incidence of 0.7-5.8%. It usually occurs 3 to 4 weeks post-surgery.

How to promote recovery?

During the first 24 hours:

Physical activity can increase your blood pressure, which is not good for healing. It is important to rest for a good recovery.

For the first 24 hours, you should not brush your teeth, rinse your mouth or spit vigorously, as this can affect the blood clot that is essential for healing.

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 over the next few days.
To avoid burning your cheek, do not put the ice directly on your skin. Wrap it in a towel instead.

You will also need to adjust your diet. Do not eat until the bleeding has stopped, which is about 1 to 2 hours after the operation. Choose soft, liquid foods and avoid biting the wound.

It is important to eat a balanced diet during the healing process. A healthy diet will minimize the effects of the operation and help the wound to heal.

In the next few days:

On the third day, the swelling will be at its maximum. At this point, ice will no longer reduce the swelling. Instead, you can apply warm, moist compresses to the area.

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

During the first week, eat soft foods that require little chewing, such as well-cooked pasta, mashed vegetables, soups, yoghurt and salmon.

By the end of the first week, the swelling will have gone down. In the second week after the operation, you can resume your normal activities, diet and oral hygiene routine.