Removal of wisdom teeth is fairly common. On the My New Smile website, cosmetic dentist Dr. David Hall explains that wisdom teeth often do not fit correctly into the arch of the mouth, thereby growing in crooked or crowding other teeth. Wisdom teeth can also be host to an array of infections later in life. Recovery from wisdom teeth removal is painful and not without side effects. The longer the wisdom teeth grow untreated, the more the extraction process poses a threat.
General anesthesia given during the procedure and sedatives taken afterward can affect coordination and reasoning skills. A 2008 Bupa fact sheet publication titled "Wisdom Teeth Removal" gives the following advice: Do not drive, operate machinery or work during the recovery process. Ideally, a family member or friend should drive you home after the procedure and look after you during the initial days of healing. You will be unable to eat solid foods for several days until jaw function returns and pain diminishes. Do not rinse out your mouth often in the 24 hours following surgery. Rinsing could prevent blood from clotting in the wound. You will be able to brush your teeth, but try not to brush over the wound. You may need to keep pressure on the wound if it is bleeding.
Serious Side Effects
The following side effects listed on the 2008 Bupa fact sheet are rare and require special attention from a doctor or dentist immediately: Bleeding that will not cease even when pressure is applied for more than 30 minutes, difficulty breathing or swallowing, strong pain that does not respond to pain medication, a high fever and swelling that persists in face, gums or mouth area for three or more days.
Complications from wisdom teeth removal are uncommon, but do occasionally occur. Some possible complications are infections and unintentional damage to nearby teeth or gums. There could also be severe pain in the dry tooth socket if the blood clot breaks away from the wound and exposes nerves and bone. Because the clot can no longer protect the wound, healing will be delayed. Jaw stiffness restricting your ability to open your mouth may occur. Numbness in the lower lip or tongue can result from general anesthesia. In rare cases, this numbness is permanent due to possible nerve damage. You may also experience nausea from the general anesthesia.
Lingual Nerve Injury
According to the Nov. 7, 2001, article "Lingual Nerve Injury from Anesthetic Injections," injury results in numbness, tingling, pain or burning in the tongue. This is caused by complications with teeth extraction and anesthesia injection. The injection can cause the injury by puncturing the lingual nerve or by inadvertently injecting anesthesia into the nerve itself. This is an extremely rare occurrence, and treatment is available. Oral steroids may soothe pain in the tongue. Sensation, loss of burning feeling and normality may return to the tongue within eight weeks after the surgery. If it does not, you are advised to seek out pain clinics or specialists.
To avoid all risks after surgery, Bupa advises listening to your doctor’s orders and not eating solid food or irritating the wounded area in any way. You will begin to recover within three days of the surgery if everything was successful.