Wisdom Teeth Stitches Care | Healing Time, & Infection Risks

wisdom teeth extraction with dentist

If you’re planning to get any type of oral surgery in the near future (such as removing your wisdom teeth,) stitches may be necessary. Fortunately, a lot of dentists and oral surgeons now have access to dissolvable types of materials, so that it isn’t necessary to remove them at a later point. With dissolvable sutures, wisdom teeth removal follow-up is a bit more efficient.

During wisdom teeth removal, stitches aren’t always a given. Some people may need them, others may not. Much of it will depend on the type of extraction you’re having and how it’s being completed. Such as if your dentist is using a laser, placing platelet-rich fibrin/plasma (PRF, PRP), and if it’s a surgical vs. simple extraction.[1]

For the purpose of today’s discussion, we’re going to assume that with your specific wisdom teeth removal, stitches are a given.

Taking Care Of Your Mouth After Wisdom Teeth Surgery

If you don’t want your wisdom teeth stitches infected—and you want to minimize possible swelling or pain—your aftercare routine needs to be your #1 priority.

Always, always, always follow the written instructions that your dentist or oral surgeon gives you. With or without sutures, wisdom teeth extraction sites require extra attention so that they don’t get infected.

Inflammation is the primary cause of post-operative discomfort. Always take your medication as prescribed to keep swelling to a minimum. Applying a cold compress to the side of your face for 20 minutes at a time will also be extremely helpful. By reducing the swelling at your extraction site, you can reduce the risk of irritation to your wisdom teeth stitches. When you’re resting, plan to keep your head elevated to reduce pressure inside of your mouth.

Don’t plan on brushing those parts of your mouth anytime soon, as the toothbrush could irritate your sutures, wisdom teeth sockets, or blood clots. Instead, gently swish with a warm saltwater solution to reduce swelling and remove food debris. Some dentists/surgeons will also provide you with a topical medication that needs to be applied to the extraction site 1-2 times a day.[2]

1) Foods To Avoid

Make sure you’re not eating any hard or crunchy foods that might irritate your surgical sites. Snacks like chips, nuts, popcorn, or anything hard that requires a lot of chewing should be avoided. Steer clear of hot or spicy types of food, as they might cause irritation as well. And it’s never a good idea to try to eat something while your mouth is still numb because you could seriously hurt your mouth by biting down on your lip, cheek, or tongue without even feeling it.

For the first several days, stick to softer types of foods that don’t require a lot of chewing. Cold foods are also a good idea, as they’re also soothing to your mouth.

2) Things To Avoid

Make sure that you stay away from caffeine, smoking/tobacco/vaping products, or anything hot, as it can delay healing. It’s also a good idea to avoid drinking through a straw because some dental professionals worry that it might dislodge the clot that’s forming around your sutures or wisdom teeth sockets.[3] If you’re an athlete, it’s best to avoid rigorous exercise for at least a few days; you don’t want to increase your blood pressure because it could dislodge your clot, increase bleeding, or raise your chances of getting your wisdom teeth stitches infected.

How Long Does It Take For Stitches To Dissolve? 

If you’re getting dissolvable wisdom teeth stitches, how long does it take for those sutures to dissolve and fall out? Depending on your specific type of absorbable sutures, wisdom teeth stitches usually last about two weeks to a maximum of a month.

Most dentists want your sutures to stay in place for at least 10-14 days for proper healing.[4] With conventional wisdom teeth removal, stitches had to be removed by hand a couple of weeks after your extraction. One advantage of dissolvable stitches is that follow-up care is more comfortable and efficient.

While dissolvable sutures essentially disintegrate or are absorbed by your body, it’s not unheard of to feel little pieces of them coming loose here and there. Any pieces that do fall off because of being partially dissolved will probably only be a fragment of what was actually there.

If a suture feels loose, don’t try to work it out. Even if it feels a little irritated, the last thing you want to do is tug on it when the other end is being absorbed into the tissues. Leave suture removal to the professionals; otherwise, you could wind up giving yourself some type of infection at your extraction site.

Do Wisdom Teeth Stitches Dissolve Or Fall Out?

Technically, both. Parts of them will dissolve or disintegrate; it’s normal for your body to just absorb them as the surgical area heals. But at times, you’ll see pieces of them dissolve at different rates, causing one side to come loose and fall out. Either scenario is just fine. It doesn’t mean there’s a problem. But your dentist will probably still need to check your sutures, wisdom teeth sockets, and healing status within a few days or a couple of weeks after having your third molars removed.

Removing Wisdom Teeth Stitches

Maybe your wisdom teeth stitches didn’t dissolve all the way, or you had traditional sutures placed. Wisdom teeth follow-up appointments provide time to have your stitches professionally removed and your healing status monitored. Getting stitches taken out is not uncomfortable whatsoever. And they can be safely removed by another dental professional other than your surgeon, such as your hygienist or a licensed dental assistant.

When sutures are removed, the visible portion above your gums is gently snipped with a small pair of scissors. Then the side with the knot is slightly tugged so that the other end of the suture is pulled through the gums and out of the mouth. A little pressure is all you’ll feel.[5]

If the stitches are dissolvable, removing any residual sutures is similar to taking out traditional ones. Only they may not need to be cut, depending on how much of them is left intact.

Never try to remove sutures on your own, as you could cause unnecessary pain, scar tissue, or an infection.

Dissolvable Stitches Care

In most cases, you’re caring the same for your teeth after wisdom teeth removal, stitches or no stitches. You don’t want to irritate that area of your mouth whatsoever, because you need a blood clot to form that will seal off the extraction site (socket.) The first 24 hours are the most crucial. If the clot becomes dislodged, you will probably develop a dry socket.

If you’re extremely careful, you can brush the other teeth in your mouth so long as you don’t get anywhere near your wisdom teeth stitches. It’s not going to be the end of the world if you don’t brush those very back teeth; after all, you just had surgery.

To remove food debris, plaque, and reduce your chances of infecting the sutures, wisdom teeth removal patients should gently rinse their mouth with warm salt water every few hours for the first day or two. Just don’t rinse too vigorously, as that could be as “bad” as brushing right after surgery. Be gentle.

Is It Normal To Feel Stitches After Wisdom Teeth?

Absolutely. Once the local anesthetic (numbing medication) starts to wear off and you can feel things again, it’s totally normal to feel your wisdom teeth stitches. As tempting as it can be to want to feel them with your tongue, try to avoid doing so. The last thing you want to do is irritate them.

After a surgical wisdom teeth removal, stitches will either dissolve, partially fall out/disintegrate, or need to be removed by your dentist. If you have dissolvable sutures, you’ll probably feel them more at first and not as much in the days thereafter. It’s not uncommon for little parts to come loose. However, do not attempt to pull or remove your stitches on your own. Doing so can cause your extraction site to become infected, delay healing, or lead to unnecessary painful complications.[6]

Wisdom Teeth Stitches Infection Symptoms

How can you tell if your wisdom teeth stitches are infected? Most likely, you’ll experience one or more of the following:

As with any type of surgery, wisdom teeth stitches and surgical sites need to be cared for properly. Otherwise, bacterial infections can develop, causing a delay in healing and unnecessary pain. The best way to avoid infected sutures, wisdom teeth pain, or facial swelling is to always follow your home care instructions (no ifs, ands, or buts!)

What To Do About Infection

If you think that you are developing an infection around your sutures/wisdom teeth dry sockets, you need to call your dentist or oral surgeon (the one who performed the procedure.) More than likely, they’ll want you to come into their office ASAP.

Your dental provider will likely clean the area and place some type of medicated dressing onto the surgical site. They may even prescribe an antibiotic (if they hadn’t already…and you should be taking it as directed.)

In the meantime, gently rinse with warm salt water and take an anti-inflammatory such as Motrin/ibuprofen. Since inflammation leads to pain, you want to get ahead of it by minimizing swelling as much as possible. Now would be a good time to go back to using a cold compress on the side of your mouth.

Will I Get A Dry Socket If I Have Stitches?

Dry sockets occur in nearly 1 in 10 wisdom tooth extractions. They can be extremely painful and cause significant delays in healing. This is why it’s crucial to do everything you can to avoid a dry socket or getting your wisdom teeth stitches infected.

Yes, it is still possible to get a dry socket if you have stitches. Especially if the stitches fell out, your extraction site got infected, or you aren’t following your home care instructions properly. That means no drinking through a straw, no smoking, no vigorous exercise, etc.[7]

Sutures help to reduce the risk of dry sockets, but they won’t eliminate it completely. Today, a lot of dentists are incorporating PRF, PRP, and laser treatments to expedite the oral surgery healing process. These surgical add-ons can significantly lower your chances of getting a dry socket and speed up your recovery time.

If you’re going to get a dry socket, chances are you’ll be able to tell within the first week. The typical patient will start to feel noticeably better within 3-4 days after their surgery. On the other hand, someone with a dry socket will see an increase in discomfort as the week goes by.

How Long Until Fully Healed After Wisdom Teeth Extraction

After your wisdom tooth removal, stitches are typically totally dissolved or removed within a couple of weeks. By then, your surgical sites (“sockets”) should be completely closed up to where there’s not an opening in your gums anymore. But someone with a dry socket might see an open hole 1-2 weeks after their tooth being removed, requiring nearly double the recovery time if not longer than that.

Since PRP/PRF treatments are gaining a lot of popularity, most wisdom tooth removal cases see even quicker recoveries if that service is offered by their oral surgeon. Essentially, PRP/PRF helps jump-start your body’s own healing process to close up and heal the extraction site in less time.

Side Note: Some people will also see tiny bone chips work their way out through their gums shortly after a wisdom tooth removal (sutures or not.)

Always Go To Your Follow Up Visit

Even if you think your sutures/stitches have completely dissolved, you’ll still want to see your surgeon for a post-op visit. They’ll make sure your wisdom teeth stitches have absorbed, remove the ones that aren’t, and evaluate the soft tissues around your extraction site.

Bottom line: always follow your home care instructions. Doing so will speed up your recovery, minimize discomfort, and reduce your chances of getting wisdom teeth stitches infected.