a man at a dentist's office holding his mouth in pain

Most oral surgeries are standard procedures, and with advances in medical care being made every day, infection control practices are the best they’ve ever been. Still, infections do occur once in a while, and as the patient, it is your job to know what to look for so that you can seek follow-up care when needed. Following your oral surgeon’s instructions, and being aware of the signs of an infection, are the best ways to ensure that your recovery will go as smoothly as possible.

Why Would You Need Oral Surgery?

Oral surgery is incredibly common and is performed for a variety of reasons. Mouth pain can be debilitating, so oral surgery is often used to address common causes of pain and discomfort. Tooth extractions are the most recognized form of oral surgery, and include removing teeth that are damaged, decayed, or impacted (such as wisdom teeth). Oral surgery can correct jaw-joint issues (like TMJ), overbites or underbites, and sleep and breathing issues, as well as replace missing teeth via dental implants. Facial trauma can also be addressed through oral surgery and the damaged area can be reconstructed. Positive oral health promotes positive overall health, so seeking care when you are experiencing an oral issue is essential.

What to Expect After Oral Surgery

Immediately after your oral surgery, your mouth will probably be numb for a couple of hours, so be sure to use caution when eating or drinking. Pain medication should help you stay comfortable. You should also follow your oral surgeon’s instructions for oral care and may want to gargle with a warm saltwater solution to keep your mouth clean and avoid infection. It is also advised to rest after your surgery, avoiding physical activity for at least two days. Resting is essential to recovery after any type of surgery, and with oral surgery, resting and keeping your head propped up will help reduce swelling and bleeding.

Infections after oral surgery are rare, and when they do occur, they are most commonly seen among people with compromised immune systems or diabetes. The concern about an infection is that it could spread to other parts of your body, causing significant health problems, so if an infection occurs, it needs to be addressed and treated as early as possible.

Symptoms of an Infection After Oral Surgery

Some bleeding, swelling, and numbness are normal following oral surgery, but certain symptoms are clear indicators that you may have an infection. If you experience any of the following symptoms after oral surgery, be sure to contact your doctor as soon as possible.

  • Bleeding that is present for 24 hours or more
  • Throbbing pain that is not relieved with pain medication
  • Increased swelling of the face, jaw, or gums
  • Oozing discharge, especially pus
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • A fever, especially a low-grade fever that either persists or increases

How Can You Prevent an Infection After Oral Surgery?

There are a number of steps that you can take to prevent infection after your oral surgery. The most basic prevention method is to follow the instructions given to you by your oral surgeon. They will tell you how to care for and clean the affected area, what you can eat or drink, what antibiotics to take, and anything else that is relevant to your specific case. The use of antibiotics will manage bacteria present in the mouth and help prevent an infection from occurring. To control normal amounts of bleeding following surgery, you will need to bite down lightly on a gauze pad for an hour. Swelling can be minimized with the use of ice packs, and rinsing gently with warm salt water will help keep the area clean. If you are experiencing signs of infection after oral surgery, be sure to contact us at St. Luke’s OMS immediately. We will work with you to address the issue while providing state of the art care, and ensure that your mouth heals fully and properly.