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Getting your wisdom tooth extracted is not the most pleasant of experiences, however, these simple 5 tips will help minimize the possibility of infection after wisdom tooth removal.

Wisdom Tooth Removal

The extraction or the removal of a wisdom tooth is the most common oral surgical procedure that is carried out [1]. Since wisdom teeth can often be partially erupted or completely unerupted, the procedure to extract them is a little bit more complicated than other teeth. This is also one of the reasons why infection after wisdom tooth removal is much more common than in other cases [2].

Wisdom teeth are considered remnants of evolution that no longer serve a purpose, much like the appendix in our body. Humans no longer have a diet that requires the use of wisdom teeth and so their jaw size has become smaller. The wisdom teeth, though, continue to be formed in most of our jaws and end up causing trouble when they erupt [3].

The most common reasons for their removal is pain, discomfort, or a cheek bite due to the wisdom teeth attempting to erupt into insufficient space. They may also cause food lodgement which is followed by tooth decay that can affect the wisdom teeth as well as the neighboring second molar.

The removal of the wisdom teeth may be done non-surgically if they have completely erupted or after surgically exposing the tooth and removing some amount of bone if they are unerupted. The method of extraction, as well as the aggressiveness of the surgery, is an important determinant in the chance of wisdom tooth removal infection occurring [4].

How to Prevent Infection After Wisdom Tooth Removal

Maintain good oral hygiene

This is probably the most important thing that the patient can do after getting a wisdom tooth extraction. Many times, the patient will have some amount of pain and discomfort in opening the mouth or they are worried about injuring the area of surgery so they do not brush (or brush well enough) [5].

This allows the harmful bacteria in the mouth to grow and cause infection. The inflammation of the gums that happens due to poor oral hygiene also affects the amount of time required for healing to take place [6].

It is also an excellent idea to actually get a tooth cleaning done before the wisdom tooth removal. This will ensure that the bacteria present in the mouth are predominantly health-promoting. Of course, it is not always possible to have this luxury since the removal of a painful wisdom tooth can be treated as a dental emergency.

Use an ice pack

Using cold therapy to minimize the amount of inflammation and swelling that takes place is an excellent option that patients that can follow easily. The most effective time for using this ice pack is immediately after the completion of the surgical extraction. There is a good chance that the dental clinic will provide an ice pack as you leave. Application of the ice pack should be done for 30-40 seconds and then removed for a minute or so, then repeated in the same manner for around half an hour.

A frozen pack of peas or some ice cubes wrapped in a piece of cloth can also be used to the same effect [7].

Take your medication as instructed

You may be prescribed a combination of antibiotics and painkillers after the procedure is over. The duration for which the medication is advised to be taken will vary depending upon the kind of infection that was present before the procedure as well as the invasiveness of the surgery [8].

The most important thing to do as a patient is to ensure that the medication is taken as instructed and not left incomplete in the middle. This allows the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can cause a serious infection.

Avoid spitting after the procedure

In a lot of the cases of wisdom tooth removal infection, it is found later that simple things could have helped prevent a huge amount of discomfort. One of those things is to avoid spitting after the surgery has been done. Patients are likely to find some amount of bleeding from the extraction socket immediately after and maybe even the next day after the procedure has been completed.

Ideally, all of this blood should be swallowed so that the blood clot is allowed to develop undisturbed at the extraction site and healing can begin to take place. If patients continue to spit blood or rinse out their mouth vigorously then this developing clot can become dislodged leading to a condition called as a dry socket which is acutely painful.

The first 48-72 hours are the most crucial for patients and they should take the maximum care until the initial healing has taken place.

Food that is extremely spicy or abrasive should be avoided so that it does not cause discomfort to the patient. Any kind of mixture that can get stuck in the socket should also be avoided, as should sodas. Stick to a soft, cold, neutral diet for the first few days after the extraction procedure [9].

Use an antibacterial mouthwash

There is a little bit of controversy about the kind of mouthwash to use after extraction for a couple of reasons. The first is that some studies have shown that it can actually retard the rate of healing and the other is the risk of dislodging the blood clot from the socket.

This is why most dentists recommend the use of a povidine-iodine mouthwash that does not interfere with healing and can be used 48-72 hours after the procedure has been completed so that the initial healing would have already taken place. A chlorhexidine containing mouthwash can even be used pre-operatively to minimize the chances of infection later on [10].  

It is recommended that the use of a mouthwash be done only after talking about it with your dentist.

Conclusion

The incidence of infection after wisdom tooth removal is relatively low but it can cause a lot of discomfort when it does occur. Patients will have trouble talking, chewing, swallowing, or even opening their mouth if their extraction socket does not heal as intended.

This is why following the instructions of the dentist to a T and taking some simple precautions can go a long way in making the entire experience as comfortable as possible.

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