Periodic appointments with your dentist are good habits suggested to all to maintain healthy teeth. But what if your dentist recommends removal of your wisdom teeth? There are a few precautions those opting for this procedure might need to take; especially, smokers may be advised to take special care soon after removal of wisdom teeth. Read on to know more on this.
Removal of the wisdom teeth is a very common dental procedure. This procedure is usually done by a dental surgeon. Your dentists may advise removal of wisdom teeth because of several reasons. The major ones include (1) these teeth may have a faulty orientation; by this, they may be pressing their adjacent tooth, (2) their growth may be big for your jaw to accommodate, (3) inability to reach your wisdom teeth with a dental floss or toothbrush; this may often lead to problems in your gums and (4) teeth not fully erupting out; often, wisdom teeth may not take their normal shape. The fourth condition is commonly referred as impacted teeth.
This dental procedure may consume nearly 30 to 45 minutes. Your dental surgeon may sedate your jaw area with a local anesthesia. In order to reach your teeth, the dental surgeon may need to cut through the bone or gums. Cotton swab or cotton gauze is stuffed in the surgical site to stop the bleed. If the surgical cut is deep, the wound may be stitched to have it healed soon.
After this procedure, you may experience some pain or discomforts for the next three or four days. Though the discomforts may stop within a week, you may need to wait for some weeks for it to be fully healed. The surgeon may advise you to move your jaws gently as a work out, consume a lot of water or fluids, refrain from taking hard foods – instead, take softer foods such as rice, liquid foods such as porridge, etc. Further, you may also be advised to consume all the drugs prescribed to manage inflammation and pain. If the pain and swelling is posing a considerable level of discomfort, then cold compress (ice packs) may be applied onto the swollen area.
Your dentist may advise against eating oily, greasy and foods that are difficult to bite. As usage of a straw can open clots and thus delay your healing process, you may be advised not to use a straw to drink fluids. On top of it all, you will be advised to refrain from smoking. While you smoke, your blood houses more amount of carbon monoxide. In essence, it discourages access to oxygen; which is essential for your healing activity.
In the succeeding sections, you will learn more about why smoking is not advised after removal of your wisdom teeth.
#1. Odds of osteomyelitis are high
Smoking increases the chances of infections in your jaw bones; such infections are found to last a longer time i.e., even after the discomforts have ceased to exist. Osteomyelitis is caused by bacteria and is triggered by trauma in the oral area. Adults may develop this medical condition when a bone gets exposed due to an injury. Such exposed bones are more likely to get affected by infections. The common signs of it are painful bone conditions coupled with fever and discoloration (the area may turn red in color). Bacteria belonging to a family called Staphylococcus aureus is often identified as a cause for such infections. Onset is treated with antibiotics – administered either intravenously or through mouth. Clinical studies reveal that the mandible (lower jaw) is more likely to be affected than your maxilla (upper jaw). The main reasons include surgery done to remove teeth – especially removal of your wisdom teeth.
#2. Risks of pericoronal infections can increase
Smoking after removal of your wisdom teeth can infect the softer tissues and gums adjoining the teeth. These infections are rampant in impacted wisdom teeth; commonly called as the third molars of your mandible. These infections are often accompanied by pain (usually at an acute level), inflammation and allied discomforts. Pericoronal infections are also known to spread faster; especially to areas such as your face, cheeks and eye sockets. You may experience a bad taste in your mouth, problems in opening your jaws in full, decrease in appetite, fever, pain while you try to swallow foods, etc. This infection is caused by the onset of Streptococci – a unique type of bacteria. Clinical studies have also indicated the presence of other anerobic organisms as another cause for these infections. Pericoronal infections are however rare at both the third molars (read: wisdom teeth) of your mandible (lower jaw). These infections can be treated either with antibiotics or as a last resort, may need a surgery. You may need to wash your mouth with salt water (preferably salt added to warm water). A few medical trials have found that rinsing your mouth with green tea has reduced the spread of these infections. The pain accompanying this condition has also been found to get reduced with such mouth washes.
#3. Smoking slows your healing process
The empty sockets – on which your wisdom tooth was once seated – needs to be healed after their surgical removal. If you start smoking soon after a tooth removal surgery, you are doing a disservice to these empty sockets and their healing process. The empty socket is at its most vulnerable point immediately after a surgery. It is the time when blood clots inside it and fibroblasts begin to take shape. Your new bone is also getting formed as part of the curative process.
Smoking at this point only makes your socket to bleed more, and puts an obstacle by triggering pain. You would suck a lot while smoking; this action damages the clotting of blood in the socket. The root cause of all this is, each time you are smoking your blood pressure is on the rise. An increase in blood pressure is a deterrent to all healing activities.
Smoking also brings nicotine to the wound area. The socket may already have attracted bacteria. Now, imagine nicotine working along with these bacteria. The consequences can be very harmful to your wound, especially to the socket where your wisdom tooth sat earlier.
#4. Smoking can enhance the risks of other infections
The signs of a likely infection in the surgical site include inflammation of lymph nodes, continued pain in the socket from where the wisdom teeth was removed, a very bad taste in your mouth, etc. At times, you may experience pain in your ears and bad breath. The other forms of risks include periodontal disorders. The most common risk here is the onset of a disease called gingivitis. This medical condition is characterised by swelling of your gums. The other signs include bleeding, discoloration of gums, painful gums, etc.
If good oral hygiene practices are not followed, it can lead to severe damages to your oral tissues as well as bones. In a few instances, the condition has also led to loss of tooth adjoining the infected area. Addition of smoke (in essence, nicotine and other chemicals) only aggravates gum related diseases – especially after surgeries such as removal of wisdom tooth.
#5. Blood clots can be impaired with smoking
It takes some time for the blood clot to form inside the empty socket where your wisdom tooth rested. Clotting of blood also triggers a unique breed of cells (often termed as fibroblasts) to play a role in curing your wound at the site of surgery. Both clotting as well as formation of healing cells is essential for a new bone to be formed at the surgical site. Hence, a timeline of at least three days may be needed for the blood clot to form in full. However, smoke-withdrawal time of more than four days can give the best possible time for complete healing.
It has been noted that tobacco and tobacco based products can cause big harm to cells in your tissues. The damages caused to such cells are found to be almost instantaneous when you smoke. If smoking has become an uncontrollable habit, you are advised to rinse your mouth with salt water each time you smoke. This may not prevent infections or damages done to blood clots. But, salt water is known to work like a disinfectant in your mouth.
#6. Sockets can turn dry
The clinical name for this medical condition is alveolar osteitis. Clotting of blood is a natural healing action your body performs to keep infections at bay. Smoking soon after the removal of your wisdom teeth runs the risk of breaking the healing activity by deterring the formation of clots. Once the clot is broken, your bones and nerves are open for possible infections. As a result, your socket becomes dry. It only means the socket already stands infected. This condition is marked by severe pain and inflammation in the surgical area.
Some dental patients describe the pain caused by dry socket as excruciating and hence unbearable. To top it all, they claim that such pain can last for about a week. The end result of this is your healing gets interrupted by the dryness of tooth socket. Smokers may inadvertently invite more such troubles – especially if they start smoking immediately after surgical removal of their third molars from the mandible.
You are also advised not to drink fluids through a straw as well as pursue all good practices of oral health your dentist recommends to you. Drinking through a straw also involves a lot of sucking action (quite similar to smoking). As mentioned, sucking disturbs clotting of blood in your socket. Once clotting is interfered, dryness of socket may be a natural outcome of it.
#7. Smoking can turn on post-surgical pain
Your risk level for hypertension increases when your smoke. When the surgical wound is still fresh, increase in blood pressure can make you dizzy. Nausea can soon make way for internal bleeding. The damage to the tissues also makes way for extremely painful post-surgical episodes.
Some of the toxic chemicals as well as the heat can reopen your internal wounds and make pain a constant companion. Such irritation to the already-open wound only delays your recovery further. Most surgeries done to remove wisdom teeth are elective procedures (i.e., planned beforehand). Hence, you can resolve to quit smoking forever or for the time being to intrude less into your post-surgical healing process. Some smokers try to quit smoking to avoid pain. So, the best time to quit smoking is during run-up to your wisdom tooth removal surgery.
Some patients may smoke weed soon after their oral surgery. This can be as bad as smoking any other tobacco products. The risks of infections, dryness of sockets and delays caused to your healing activity are all the same while smoking weed.
In sum, you are not advised to start smoking soon after an oral surgery – especially surgeries like removal of wisdom tooth. It is a good practice to wait for at least 75 hours. Clinical studies indicate the risks of infections or conditions such as dry sockets can be avoided if the withdrawal time is at least 72 hours after completion of surgery. For smokers who are addicted to the habit, dentists insist on at least 48 hours of non-smoking after the surgery. These are widely accepted timelines. But, you may also know that people need different timelines to recover. It is generally recommended to stop smoking at least during the prescribed period after your oral surgery. On a related note, it is not a good practice to smoke before a surgery, done to remove your wisdom teeth. You have to remember that the risks of developing dry sockets are relatively high if you smoke before the procedure.