Health Questions: How To Prevent Infection After Widsom Teeth Removal

This article discusses some of the ways a patient can help prevent getting an infection after wisdom teeth removal.

It happens to most of us, eventually. At some point, usually in our late teens or 20s, we will go to the dentist for a routine check-up. He or she will peer into our mouths. "Tsk. Tsk. Those wisdom teeth are erupting and they look ugly. Looks like they're going to have to come out." Eeewww. Depending on the individual, this can mean anything from a routine extraction, to oral surgery. It all depends on how the teeth are coming in, and how much room there is for them in the person's jaw. Chances are, however, an oral surgeon is going to be involved in the process.

The oral surgeon will usually look at the person's teeth and take a full-mouth X-ray, to see exactly how the wisdom teeth are positioned in the mouth, and what it's going to take to get them out. He or she will probably recommend surgery, with anesthesia. In most cases, the patient will be given a pre and post-op list of things to do to prepare for the surgery and how to reduce complications afterward. The patient should read both lists carefully, and should make sure the competent adult caring for them after the surgery has read the lists, as well.

One major concern for most people after having wisdom teethe removed is the possibility of infection. "Dry sockets," as they are called, are extremely painful and can cause a longer recovery period. Patients want to avoid this situation like the plague, and there are some things they can do to help speed the healing process and reduce the likelihood of infection.

First, although it may seem counter-intuitive, do not drink through a straw for at least a week. Tender clots form over the spaces where the wisdom teeth were, and the sucking action through a straw can pull them away from the skin. Result? Dry sockets. Smoking a cigarette can cause the same effect.

Second, keep the head and shoulders elevated for the first couple of days. Put two pillows behind the shoulders and three behind the head to sleep. This assists with drainage which, of course, helps fight infection.

The oral surgeon will probably prescribe a round of steroids, to help prevent swelling, as well as antibiotics. Take all the medication as prescribed. Don't skip doses, and don't stop taking the medication before it is all gone. Taking the full round of antibiotics will help the body fight infection.

Be careful about eating for the first 72 hours or so. This may sound obvious, but some people may need reminding. Liquids and soft foods are recommended. The usual suspects are jello, pudding and soup, but along about that third day, the patient will probably want something more substantial. Refried beans are a good choice. They contain protein, are available in low-fat versions, are soft and do not require much chewing. They are also unlikely to leave residue in the mouth that could get caught in the clots.

The oral surgeon will probably give the patient a syringe with a curved end. This will enable the patient to make up a solution of very warm, salty water, and squirt the clot area with this three times a day. This also helps prevent infection. The patient will want to do this after the first 72 hours have passed, until the post-op check-up. After that, the patient will need to buy an antiseptic mouthwash, and rinse with it after every meal and before bedtime, and keep using the saline solution on the wounds for another week or so.

This may sound like a lot of doing, but it isn't. It doesn't take long, and can be done easily at the workplace. The patient can carry a sealed sandwich bag with the syringe, and a portion of salt in plastic wrap. Mouthwash can be carried in a small bottle. These actions are quickly performed and are a small effort to make to ensure a nasty infection doesn't set in.

A patient should follow all of his or her surgeon's instructions in every particular, paying careful attention to good oral hygiene and taking those antibiotics. Doing these things isn't guaranteed to prevent infection entirely, but it will certainly improve a patient's odds of getting through the procedure without dry sockets.

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