Complications from wisdom tooth extraction are quite rare. In fact, less than 2 percent of patients who have their wisdom teeth removed have unexpected health issues [source: WebMD]. Perhaps the most significant potential complication is infection.
Some people are simply more prone to infection than others. If you have a pre-existing medical condition that has weakened your immune system, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics before and after having your wisdom teeth extracted. If you or your doctor don't guard against infection, there's the small possibility that bacteria could enter your bloodstream during the removal process, leading to more serious health problems involving vital organs like the heart or kidneys.
Women who take antibiotics should be aware that the medication can disrupt the effectiveness of oral birth control. Your doctor will likely recommend that you use a second form of birth control until you have completed the entire course of antibiotic treatment [source: Virginia Oral and Facial Surgery].
If you don't have a weakened immune system, much of the potential for infection is within your control. For example, smokers should avoid the practice for at least 24 hours following extraction [source: WebMD]. Continuing to keep your mouth clean by brushing your teeth and tongue will prevent the risk of infection. Avoiding physical activity for several days following wisdom tooth extraction will promote the healing process. You can also avoid complications arising from infection by leaving the wounds alone as much as possible. Touching the affected areas with your fingers or tongue may be tempting but can't help in your recovery. Aside from changing out gauze, the sutured area should be avoided. Remember, too, to rinse your mouth gently with warm water and avoid sucking (using a straw) or spitting, which can interrupt healing [source: WebMD].
In most cases, it's wise to have those wisdom teeth of yours removed, and by leaning on a trained dental professional's knowledge and care, you can expect the extraction procedure and recovery to go smoothly. Ready to learn more? We have lots more information below.
- American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. "Wisdom Teeth." (Nov. 30, 2011) http://www.aaoms.org/wisdom_teeth.php
- Cooper, Rachelle. "Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?" Scienceline.org. Feb. 5, 2007. (Dec. 1, 2011) http://scienceline.org/2007/02/ask-cooper-wisdomteeth/
- Dentistry and You. "Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth?" Feb. 4, 2010. (Dec. 1, 2011) http://www.deardoctor.com/dentistry/blog/why-are-they-called-wisdom-teeth
- Johnstone, Greg. "Wisdom Teeth Removal – Tooth Extraction Cost and Recovery Info." Consumer Guide to Dentistry. (Nov. 30, 2011) http://www.yourdentistryguide.com/wisdom-teeth/
- Virginia Oral and Facial Surgery. "After Wisdom Tooth Removal." (Dec. 1, 2011) http://www.oralfacialsurgery.com/surgical_instructions/after_wisdom_teeth_extractions.html
- WebMD. "Wisdom Tooth Extraction." (Nov. 30, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/wisdom-tooth-extraction