Located in the very back of the mouth, wisdom teeth usually appear between the age of 17 to 21, according to the American Dental Association. Also called third molars, removal may be recommended if they grow improperly or crowd the nearby teeth. Infection is a potential complication after extraction, so contact your dentist or oral surgeon if you have any signs of infection, including swelling, pain, fever and discharge.
Swelling and Pain
Swelling, which is normal after dental surgery, often begins to subside by the third day after the procedure. If the swelling lasts longer than this, despite the use of cold packs to the outer cheek or jaw area, an infection should be suspected. Infection should also be considered if this swelling is accompanied by persistent pain, swelling, tenderness and difficulty opening the mouth. Severe pain -- particularly if the pain runs up your jawline toward the ear -- may also be from dry socket. This complication occurs when the blood clot over the wound dissolves or becomes dislodged, increasing the risk of infection.
A fever is a reliable sign of infection, since body temperature increases as a natural strategy to kill certain bacteria and viruses. While a slightly elevated temperature is common and expected after oral surgery, a persistent or high fever will require treatment. If you think you have an infection after wisdom tooth extraction, check your temperature and report your symptoms to your dentist or oral surgeon.
Just as open wounds on your skin can form pus when infected, so can the wound at the site of tooth extraction. If you have an infection, a yellow or white discharge, or pus, may form in the wound. As pus build up in the wound, it can leak or spill into your mouth, causing a foul or salty taste. If you have an infection in your wisdom tooth extraction site, your dentist will probably prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection.
Although most people experience some pain, discomfort and swelling after wisdom tooth removal, infection is not common and most people recover quickly. To reduce infection risk, follow the postoperative recommendations provided by your dentist or oral surgeon, and call if you have a persistent fever, swelling or pain that increases after 3 to 4 days, or if you have pus draining from the surgery site. Also call if you have red, hard swelling over the surgical site, or if you notice an increase in bleeding 24 hours after extraction.