Recently, a teenager died during a simple wisdom teeth removal procedure. This prompted a public conversation about the wisdom teeth removal process and the wisdom in doing so.
The truth is that death via hypoxia due to oxygen deprivation during such a procedure is rare, but that does not negate the fact that wisdom tooth removal, just like that any surgical procedure comes with inherent risks.
Even though the wisdom tooth removal procedure is simple and tends to go well, complications have been known to occur. In fact, research shows that up to 30% of people experience some form of complication after wisdom tooth removal.
If you are considering going for wisdom teeth removal, it is important that you are aware of what could go wrong so that you can take steps to prevent them.
After a tooth is removed, blood clots over the extraction site as a normal part of the healing process. But when this blood clot is dislodged, it leads to a condition known as Alveolar Osteitis or dry socket.
A research study by the Journal of Oral Health and Dental Management shows that almost 4% of individuals between the ages of 11 and 80 experienced Alveolar Osteitis after wisdom tooth removal. The study also discovered that the condition was more prevalent among smokers.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), Alveolar Osteitis or dry socket can occur within three to five days of wisdom tooth extraction and is characterised by throbbing pain and unpleasant smell coming from the affected area.
Thankfully, this condition can be handled easily. On detection of dry socket, your dentist will clean the site and cover it with medical dressing, which will be changed regularly until the site has healed completely.
Even though nerve injury is not as common as dry socket, it can happen if the procedure is carried out by an inexperienced tooth removal specialist or under the wrong conditions.
Nerve injury happens when the trigeminal nerve is injured during the tooth removal process. When this happens, you will feel pain, numbness, and a tingling sensation in your tongue, gum, teeth, lower lip, and chin.
Nerve injury from wisdom tooth extraction is usually temporary, lasting only for a week weeks, but if the damage to the nerve is extensive, the injury and its effects can be permanent.
A nerve injury can adversely affect your daily routine, even making common tasks like eating and drinking difficult. But it will not affect speech or cause any weakness in your tongue and lip.
To eliminate the chances of a nerve injury during this process, it is important that you work with wisdom teeth removal specialists, who will tell you about the risk complications and know best how to avoid them.
Tooth extraction site infection can occur as a result of dry socket or from any surgery-related injury. Fortunately, advancements in dental technology mean that the chance of an infection occurring is very low, and this chance can be further reduced by rinsing your mouth with clean water or mouthwash, starting the day preceding the surgery.
At the same time, you should avoid smoking during this period as smoking can increase the risk of infection after tooth extraction. You should also consider a course of antibiotics following tooth removal.
While not exactly a serious complication unless it escalates, it is important to point out that there may be a little bleeding during the wisdom tooth removal process, but this usually stops quickly and should not be a problem as long as you are in qualified hands.
In the event that the bleed reoccurs when you are away from the dental facility, applying mild pressure on the area for a few minutes with a cotton swab or handkerchief will usually stop the bleeding. If the bleeding continues or the blood flow increases, get in touch with the facility where you had the procedure immediately.
The wisdom teeth are located very close to the inferior alveolar nerve that runs through the jaw. If the nerve becomes injured or damaged during removal, it can lead to numbness of the lower lip. Fortunately, this is not a common problem as only 2 out of the 101 patients recorded in an American Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery study reported lower lip numbness following wisdom teeth extraction.
As long as your wisdom tooth is removed by an experienced and qualified tooth removal specialist, the chance of nerve damage and lip numbness is reduced to almost zero, as the surgeon will let you know about the possible complications and take steps to reduce or eliminate these risks.
As you can see, there are a number of things that can go wrong with wisdom teeth removal, fortunately, these risks rarely manifest. Once you have had your wisdom teeth successfully removed, be sure to follow proper dental and oral health hygiene in order to prevent belated infections or complications.