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Bad breath after wisdom teeth removal: what to do

Halitosis. It is the scientific name for bad breath. And when it’s given a complex name, we know it can be serious. Bad breath quite often occurs after oral procedures, such as wisdom teeth removal. What are the common causes, and, more importantly, what can you do about them?

In This Article:

  1. Causes of bad breath after wisdom teeth removal
    1. Oral hygiene disruption
    2. Healing process
    3. Bacterial infections
    4. Bleeding & blood clots
    5. Dry mouth
    6. Dry socket
  2. What to do to avoid bad breath after wisdom teeth removal
    1. How can you check if you have bad breath?
    2. Wisdom teeth removal and the recovery period

Causes of bad breath after wisdom teeth removal

To know what to do about bad breath after a wisdom tooth procedure, it is important to know what caused it. There are various reasons why odors might occur. 

Oral hygiene disruption

Following wisdom teeth removal, your mouth undergoes changes that can temporarily disrupt your usual oral hygiene routine. The healing process can make your mouth sensitive. During this phase, it’s advisable to initially avoid mouthwash, as it might cause discomfort. Trapped food particles and bacteria can contribute to bad breath. Don’t worry; we will consult with you on effective ways to maintain cleanliness and freshness.

Healing process

During the healing process following wisdom teeth removal, your body engages in intricate repair work. As tissues mend and wounds close, it’s common for some odor to be released. This can be caused by the natural breakdown of proteins and cells involved in healing. While these odors are temporary and part of the body’s recovery, we understand that they’re not pleasant. It is only for a short period, as you can resume dental care routines quite quickly, usually within 24 hours.

Bacterial infections

Though tooth extractions are routine procedures that normally go smoothly, bacterial infections sometimes occur. These infections occur when unwanted bacteria find their way into the healing wound.

Spotting an infection isn’t hard – pain, swelling, redness, discharge, and bad breath are common symptoms. If these symptoms arise, don’t wait for them to go away; come back to see us. Left untreated, these infections can grow into more serious issues.

Bleeding & blood clots

Following wisdom tooth extraction, a bit of bleeding is quite common. Unfortunately, this bleeding can leave a nasty taste in your mouth, adding to the bad breath issue.

As blood clots form in your mouth, they can become a breeding ground for anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria thrive without oxygen, and as they ferment, they release the not-so-pleasant odor we’re trying to combat.

A quick solution is to rinse your mouth with a bit of water, to remove the clot. You can also add a bit of salt, but just lukewarm water should help. Drinking plenty of water also rinses out your mouth.

Dry mouth

After wisdom teeth removal, experiencing dry mouth is not uncommon. This condition, known as xerostomia, occurs when your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva. Saliva plays a vital role in keeping your mouth clean and moist, helping to wash away food particles and neutralize acids.

During the surgical process, nerves responsible for triggering saliva production might be temporarily affected. Additionally, medications often prescribed for pain management or healing after the surgery can also contribute to dry mouth.

Sip water regularly to solve this problem.

Dry socket

Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is a condition that can occur after tooth extraction. It happens in about 5 to 30% of all wisdom teeth extractions. In order to protect the bone and nerves as healing progresses, a blood clot typically forms in the socket (the area where the extracted tooth was).

However, in some cases, this blood clot becomes dislodged, dissolves too soon, or never properly forms. When this happens, the bones and nerves are exposed. This ‘dry socket’ is usually very painful.

This exposed area can trap food particles and bacteria, creating an environment where they can thrive and produce foul-smelling odors.

Important read: The 5 factual stages of periodontal disease

What to do to avoid bad breath after wisdom teeth removal

We already saw that sipping water and gently rinsing the mouth is good to combat bad breath after wisdom teeth removal. Hydration is always good for you, especially when your body – or mouth – is recovering from a procedure. Such as wisdom teeth removal. Water helps your body recover. It also gently flushes bacteria away. A win-win.

To avoid irritation and minimize the risk of bleeding, opt for foods that are soft and easy to chew. Soups, yogurt, mashed potatoes, and well-cooked vegetables are good choices during this time.

Equally important is approaching oral care with gentleness. When brushing, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and take your time to ensure you don’t disturb the healing areas. Flossing should also be approached delicately to avoid any unnecessary irritation. 

Don’t skip them entirely, as good oral health is essential to ensure a good healing process. 

We usually recommend avoiding antibacterial mouthwashes for at least 24 hours after the procedure. After that, it can be helpful. These specialized mouthwashes help to eliminate harmful bacteria that contribute to bad breath.

The most important advice we can offer: follow your dentist’s care instructions. If we prescribe medication, make sure to take it. They may be for pain control, or to combat infections caused by bacteria. When problems like bad breath persist or become excessive, please contact us. We can schedule a check-up to monitor the healing process. 

How can you check if you have bad breath?

Bad breath after an oral procedure often goes hand in hand with a bad taste in your mouth. Initially, this is nothing to worry about. Although it isn’t nice, it is part of the healing process.

If the bad breath persists or gets in the way of your day-to-day life, it should be dealt with. However, if the odor issues don’t go along with a foul taste, it is not always obvious you have them. There are a few ways to check if you have bad breath.

First, cup your hand over your mouth, exhale, and take a sniff. If it smells bad to you, it probably smells bad to others. You can also lick the inside of your wrist and then smell it.  Another way is to gently scrape the back of your tongue with a clean spoon and then give it a whiff. Bad? Then take a good look at the tips we provided.

Wisdom teeth removal and the recovery period

Wisdom teeth removal, also known as third molar extraction, is a common oral procedure. Approximately five million Americans undergo wisdom teeth extractions each year, and around 70 percent of individuals require the removal of one or more wisdom teeth in their lifetime*. 

During that process, your dentist or oral surgeon will carefully remove one or more of your wisdom teeth – the molars at the back of your mouth.

The procedure typically involves a local anesthetic to numb the area, ensuring you’re comfortable throughout. In more complex cases or if you’re particularly anxious, sedation may also be used. Once the anesthetic takes effect, the dentist makes a small incision if needed, removes the wisdom tooth, and stitches up the site, if necessary.

Following the extraction, a gauze pad is usually placed over the area to control bleeding, and you’ll be given post-operative instructions to promote healing and minimize discomfort. With proper care and attention, the healing process generally takes a few weeks. Each case is unique, so your dentist will tailor the procedure and aftercare to your specific needs.

The duration of recovery after wisdom teeth removal varies, depending on factors like the complexity of the procedure and individual healing. Age and overall oral health play a role, for example. In general, most people experience initial discomfort and swelling for the first few days. You might be back to your normal dental routine within a week or so. Complete healing can take a few weeks.

As for bad breath, it’s not uncommon to experience it in the immediate aftermath of the procedure. The healing process can release odors. Also, because your mouth may feel tender, this can disrupt oral hygiene routines. This phase usually improves as the healing progresses and you resume your regular dental care. If bad breath persists beyond a few weeks or worsens, it’s a good idea to consult your dentist to ensure everything is on track.