Potential Complications of Oral Surgery: What You Need to Know

Oral surgery is a generic term for several invasive procedures to correct problems with the teeth and jaws. It can be intimidating, especially since you've likely heard horror stories about complications after dental surgery. But it's important to understand the potential risks and complications that can occur after oral surgery, so you can be prepared and take the necessary precautions. Postural changes are one of the rare complications that can occur after oral surgery.

When moving from a lying position to standing, you should be careful and take your time. Infection is another potential complication, although it is rare. People with diabetes or a weakened immune system are at greater risk for post-surgical infections. Signs of infection include fever, abnormal swelling in the affected area, pus, and a prolonged bad taste in the mouth.

Oral surgeons may prescribe antibiotics to treat infections. Injuries to the teeth or nearby tissue can occur during oral surgery, even though oral surgeons do their best to protect adjacent teeth or existing dental work. Dry alveolitis is a painful complication that can develop after tooth extraction. Normally, a clot forms in the cavity left by the extracted tooth; this clot protects the nervous and bone tissue exposed by tooth extraction until it dissolves naturally, one week to 10 days after tooth extraction. In dry alveolitis, the clot breaks off prematurely, making the nerve more vulnerable and slowing down the healing process. Oral surgery can also irritate nerves near the surgical site.

This can cause a decrease or total loss of sensation in areas where the nerve acts, such as the lip, tongue, cheeks, chin, teeth, or gums. Although any numbness that occurs usually goes away in 24 hours or less, permanent numbness can occur. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) supports the mandible above the skull. Removing wisdom teeth can cause inflammation and pain in the TMJ, especially if you have a pre-existing TMJ problem. The area where the surgery is performed may be close to a major nerve.

The surgeon will take all necessary care and precautions to avoid any damage to any of these nerves. If this happens, it can cause numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation in the teeth, gums, cheeks, lips, chin, tongue, and around the upper and lower jaws. However, if you are injured, the nerve will usually heal. As you heal, the feeling of numbness and tingling will lessen; this may take a few weeks.

In some people, complete nerve healing may take 6 to 18 months. Rarely, the nerve may not heal completely, and numbness or altered sensation may be permanent. After the extraction of a tooth or a retained root, a blood clot will form on the jaw. This clot is important for healing and pain relief. If the clot is altered, the bone will be exposed - this is known as “dry alveolitis” - and throbbing pain may last for several days.

To help prevent dry alveolitis during the first day after surgery, do not rinse or spit hard; after that day rinse gently with warm salt water every four hours or more often. For the first day after surgery do not brush your teeth around the surgery area; after that day brush gently but do not smoke or use tobacco. If a gum or bone infection occurs it is usually treated with antibiotics; tell your surgeon if you have ever had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic or other medication. Osteomyelitis is a bone infection caused by bacteria or other germs and can occur after dentoalveolar surgery; some dental treatments have been linked to an increased risk of endocarditis (a heart infection). People with rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart defects, artificial heart valves or other specific heart problems are more susceptible to this type of infection. Your body temperature may be slightly higher after surgery; this will return to normal within 12 to 24 hours but if it continues for longer it may be an indication of infection or other problems that will require you to contact your surgeon. The roots of upper teeth are close to sinuses; in some cases a sinus can be opened when a tooth or retained root is removed but usually it heals quickly without infection. However if an infection develops more treatment may be needed. Jaw surgery is performed to align the jaw correctly to improve oral appearance and functionality; tooth extraction is most common type of oral surgery but other procedures include removal of wisdom teeth and placement of dental implants. It's important to understand potential risks and complications that can occur after oral surgery so you can be prepared and take necessary precautions.

Your surgeon will consider any risks when treating patients who may be at risk.

Mónica Dahlheimer
Mónica Dahlheimer

Typical bacon trailblazer. Professional twitter specialist. Devoted music fan. Certified bacon trailblazer. Wannabe sushi specialist.

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