Oral surgery, like any major medical procedure, comes with some risk of complications. Patients undergoing tooth extraction, wisdom tooth removal, root canals, bone grafting or any other serious procedure must understand what to expect. Following is a guide to the possible complications that can arise after oral surgery and tips for avoiding problems.
Common Issues after Oral Surgery
After the anesthesia wears off, some pain or soreness is likely. The degree and duration of soreness will depend upon the type of surgical procedure you have undergone.
Bleeding after oral or maxillofacial surgery, which involves the jaw and face, is normal and usually stops within eight hours of the procedure. Applying pressure with a gauze compress can help significantly.
Swelling is another common side effect, particularly for dental extractions and procedures that involve cutting soft tissue flaps. Bruising may occur in some patients, though this is more commonly seen in older people and in those who are on regular aspirin or steroid therapy.
Infection is not unusual, but it is seen less today because at-risk patients are often prescribed antibiotics as a preventive measure.
More Serious Complications
Serious issues following oral or maxillofacial surgery are rare, but do occur in a small percentage of patients.
A reaction to anesthesia can cause confusion, along with a sore throat, nausea and sleepiness, though effects usually wear off within 24 hours.
Tooth extractions carry a risk of dry socket, a painful condition that may arise a few days after surgery. With a dry socket, the extraction site fails to heal properly. This can result in pain due to the bone and nerve being exposed to air.
Sinus exposure or communication, in which the sinus cavity membrane is exposed or perforated, also can occur, requiring additional healing time. In some cases, further treatment or additional surgery may be necessary.
If nerves are close to the surgical site, a nerve injury may result, which can lead to temporary, or more rarely, prolonged impairment in speech, taste or chewing.
Risk Factors and Preventing Complications
Smoking and tobacco use are arguably the largest preventable risk factors for complications following oral or maxillofacial surgery. Patients who smoke are more likely to experience dry socket and slower healing. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, tobacco users have a greater chance of developing an infection as well.
Some chronic medical conditions, such as a compromised immune system or diabetes, can affect recovery from oral surgery, as can a pre-existing infection. Young children and the elderly are at the highest risk for complications after a procedure.
Generally speaking, you will avoid most complications by following your surgeon’s instructions and keeping your appointment for a follow-up examination.
Rarely do any of these potential complications outweigh the benefits of a recommended procedure. Nevertheless, it is always advisable to talk with your oral surgeon about your particular risk factors. Check out our directory to find more information and to schedule an appointment to discuss oral surgery.