Wisdom tooth removal - Complications 

Complications of wisdom tooth removal 

As with any procedure, removing your wisdom teeth carries some risks. However, these risks are usually small.

Risks can include:

  • dry socket – where a blood clot fails to develop in the tooth socket, or if the blood clot becomes dislodged 
  • nerve injury – this can cause temporary or permanent problems such as pain and numbness 
  • infection  signs include a high temperature, yellow or white discharge from the site of extraction, and persistent pain and swelling
  • bleeding

You should see your dentist if you have signs of infection after the procedure, or if you are bleeding heavily from the site of extraction.

Dry socket

Dry socket (alveolar osteitis) is one of the most common complications of wisdom tooth removal. It occurs when a blood clot fails to develop in the tooth socket, or if the blood clot becomes dislodged or disappears. This can happen three to five days after surgery.

The empty socket causes an ache or throbbing pain in your gum or jaw, which can be intense. There may also be an unpleasant smell or taste from the empty tooth socket. If you look into the socket, you might be able to see exposed bone rather than a blood clot.

You're more at risk of developing dry socket if:

  • you don't follow your dentist's instructions after the extraction
  • you smoke
  • you've had the condition before
  • you're over 25 years old
  • the extraction was complicated

Contact your dentist or surgeon if you suspect you have dry socket. They can flush any debris out of the socket or cover it with a medicated dressing, which may be removed and replaced frequently until it heals.

Nerve injury

Although far less common than dry socket, injury to sections of a nerve called the trigeminal nerve is another possible complication of wisdom tooth removal. This can cause pain, a tingling sensation and numbness in the tongue, lower lip, chin, teeth and gums.

In most cases the damage is temporary, lasting for a few weeks or months. However, it can be permanent if the nerve has been severely damaged.

A nerve injury can interfere with your daily activities, making things such as eating and drinking difficult and painful.

Every attempt will be made to minimise the possibility of nerve damage when your wisdom tooth is removed, and you should be informed about the risk of complications before the procedure.

Page last reviewed: 04/06/2013

Next review due: 04/06/2015


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The 12 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Misslisa said on 06 November 2014

My 17 year old son had 5 wisdom teeth removed last Wednesday. He's suffered complications from this surgery. His lip and chin are numb and severe jaw pain. His pain is not controlled and just recently developed a fever. Brought him back in and no signs of infection, or no signs of dry socket. It all looks great. Numbness is caused from tooth was coming in sideways and nerve was right there. He may or may not ever get that feelings back. My concern is, he's had extremely high fever and now throwing up. Hasn't been able to eat since last week and is super weak. He's lost 8 pounds and is miserable. Ah suggestions? When does one get a second opinion or call primary doctor?

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abbybee said on 21 May 2014

Oh Pulser i know exactly how you are feeling! My pain at night is making me want to jump out of the window too! It is unbearable!! Im 5 days post op (bottom right wisdom tooth removed), the gum was cut and tooth broken in half then stitched my gum back up. I was very swollen the following few days and even today there is noticeable swelling, but the pain! The pain is something else! I am very sure i have developed 'dry socket' after reading the post op complications. No painkillers will budge this pain and there is a foul smell coming from the socket which i am so conscious about. I have an appointment to see the dentist tomorrow so hopefully will get this sorted before the weekend! xxx

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pulser said on 19 April 2014

I had a lower right wisdom tooth removed almost 2 weeks ago at the age of 64! The op was done at the dental hospital no antibiotics given and told to take 2 panadol every 4 hours.First day not too bad but during the night omg near to jumping out the window. There is no way that simple analgesics work on this type of pain trust me.
I appreciate everyone is different and I would try 400mgs Brufen every 6hrs and 2 co-codamol 30/500 even at that the pain is very bad. Had to see the dentist 5 days post op he gave prescription for Flagyl which is one of the worst anti biotics on this earth didn't know what to do with myself.
Nerve pain both top and bottom is something else and still find eating very sore.
Be prepared for severe facial bruising on the 2nd day post op and remember to use ice packs on the first day to reduce swelling it is not beneficial after 36hours.
take regular analgesics and don't leave yourself without waiting on the pain to return.
Keep your mouth nice and clean.
Better still ask if you really require surgery as this is one Hell of a pain.
Should point out though normal lying wisdom teeth should present no problem just one that is growing in a different way.
Good luck.

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Dizzydia said on 03 February 2014

Having my tooth removed last tues was very painful and trumatic lasting over an hour, the day after the pain eased but then started up again. I looked in my mouth and could see a hole no blood clot and food stuck inside. For 4 days I cleaned out the hole after every time I ate I was in a lot of pain my jaw was swollen. I went to the dentist today and was told was dry socket she cleaned the hole out inserted a self dissolving swab and was prescribed metronidazole antibiotics. So my advice is dont wait like i did. if your still in pain after a few days and there is a deep hole where food is getting stuck in pop back to the dentist before it gets worse.

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CharlotteA1 said on 27 September 2013

mitch1001, I'm also 41 and have had two wisdom teeth removed which were partially impacted and which both had decay. As you say, it's hard to clean them, and it's common for the area to get irritated or even infected, which is itself very painful.
I would say that it's better to have the tooth removed now and avoid possibly years of infections and pain. I had my teeth out two days ago - both surgical extractions, meaning the gum had to be cut. The operation itself was painless - the only pain involved the injection of the anaesthetic, but that's over in seconds and after that you're completely numb. It took a little while to get the teeth out as they had big roots, but I literally didn't feel a thing, and have had very little pain since. I took strong painkillers on the day itself and yesterday, but today I've not been taking anything and all I feel is a little bruising around my jaw and a sore lip! The actual 'holes' (which had to be stitched) aren't hurting me at all. I think when people talk about the pain of having wisdom teeth out, they're mainly talking about 'dry socket', which is an apparently very painful complication that can happen. But in over 70% of extractions, there are no complications of that sort. So I say 'go for it'.

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mitch1001 said on 22 August 2013

I'm 41 years old and am getting gum swelling and irritation at the back lower jaw where my wisdom tooth emerges. It's been dormant in this position for about 15 years. this swelling and irritation comes and goes and this tooth can be quite hard to clean, it is not soft and I had a filling put in there also about 15 years ago. Should I have it removed? If I do, I'm worried about the pain and also the complications that can arise as outlined above, because of my age.

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Tiffanyn3 said on 17 July 2013

Abbykimberley hi hope all is better now... I'm having the same problem and this is very frustrating and painful!! I had 3 wisdom teeth removed 2 weeks ago and my chin, lip, gums, and teeth on the bottom are still numb with the painful stinging and burning feeling. It hurts to eat and sometimes talk. My dentist said 2 weeks it'll be better but it's not! My mouth still have an odor like freshly been cut open and food gets stuck in top. I got a second opinion from another dentist and he says my nerve on the bottom was severely damaged and referred me to a neurologist to get pain meds for nerves that can help me get thru each day until this heals. He also said worst case it may take up to 5 years and even then my chin may be still numb. Hope that helps but I still don't know what to do!!

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Abbykimberley said on 04 June 2013

I had all four wisdom teeth removed in October 2012. I have numbness in my chin and lip still. My dentist says that feeling may come back within a year. I have had no change and am not hopeful. I have been given no help from the NHS. Has anyone had a similar experience or can give me any hope for my situation? Thanks.

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Ali R said on 27 April 2013

I had my top 2 wisdom teeth out at my dentist 2 days ago and have to say the procedure itself was quick and painless, took about 25 minutes in total and I would prefer that over a scale and polish any day. Its the aftercare that is so important and the worst thing for me is the aftertaste

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CCWI said on 11 March 2013

Clair16; No need to be worried as leaving part of a root in situ is regarded acceptable and is less traumatic than surgical removal - the root will continue to erupt to the surface in time without consequence. If your daughter notices signs of pain or infection she should go to her dentist where he/she may deem it necessary to be removed. Hope this helps..

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Emily111 said on 13 February 2013

Just had an upper wisdom tooth removed. It was painless. I wanted to say that in case anyone is reading this feeling worried like I was, the trip to the dentist is nothing to worry about. Honestly, I am a complete coward. The injections were less than a pin prick. Then the dentist just prizes it out, during which you feel nothing more than a slight pressing. In my case, the tooth was not impacted, it came out in a couple of minutes. The whole procedure, from my experience, is easier than having your teeth cleaned.

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Clair16 said on 29 January 2010

Hello. My daughter has had 3 wisdom teeth removed, and has been told a small part of the tooth has been left in for one of them. We didn't see the surgeon, this was on the notes. Should we be worried

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General anaesthetic

It's sometimes necessary for general anaesthetic to be used when you have a wisdom tooth removed.

It carries some additional risks, but complications are very rare, occurring in less than one case for every 10,000.

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