Wisdom teeth can be mysterious and frustrating. Some people get and keep all their wisdom teeth and never face any problems with them. Others, however, fare better without this third set of molars. That’s because wisdom teeth can be impacted, decayed, or weakened by gum disease, or they might pose the risk of eventually developing these problems.
When wisdom teeth cause any of these troubles, the solution is to have them surgically extracted. Whether you have your wisdom teeth removed or not, you may experience bad breath from the teeth or extraction site. If you do, we’re here to help with some effective solutions.
Why Do Wisdom Teeth Stink?
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, isn’t an uncommon issue. In fact, it affects roughly 30 percent of the population. But sometimes, wisdom teeth can be the root cause of bad breath or a contributing factor. While foul-smelling breath that stems from your wisdom teeth can be unpleasant on its own, it may signal something is wrong.
Because wisdom teeth are located in the back of your mouth, they’re hard to keep clean. Due to limited space, this third set of molars often erupts only partially out of the gums or even becomes impacted, which means the teeth remain partly or completely trapped in your gums or jawbone. These factors combine to make wisdom teeth highly prone to infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease. And, perhaps not surprisingly, research shows bad breath is a common symptom of oral infections.
If you suspect your wisdom teeth are to blame for stinky breath, then it’s time to see a dentist to find out if you should consider extraction. With that said, it’s important to note that removal isn’t always necessary. Because there are some potential downsides, including pain and infection, extraction should only be considered if your wisdom teeth cause problems or are at risk of causing issues in the future.
If your dentist or oral surgeon recently pulled your wisdom teeth, you may think it’s time to say goodbye to your bad breath blues. But if you’re still experiencing halitosis after the extraction, you’re not alone. Keep reading to learn the most common causes of bad breath after wisdom teeth removal.
What Can Cause Bad Breath After an Extraction
Bad breath is actually a very common complaint after wisdom tooth extraction. To eliminate it, you first need to understand what can cause it.
It’s perfectly normal to experience bleeding after wisdom tooth removal for about 24 hours after your procedure. The blood will leak into your mouth and collect there while you sleep, so noticing some funky breath or a bad taste in your mouth after wisdom teeth removal is not uncommon. Bleeding can cause an icky smell and taste due to blood’s high iron content and because it’s loaded with proteins and other organic ingredients.
Contact your dentist or oral surgeon if the bleeding is heavy or doesn’t stop after a day.
You can expect to have some pain, swelling, bleeding, and even fever during the first couple of days after the extraction. If these symptoms don’t start to improve, bacteria likely entered the extraction site and you may have an infection. White or yellow pus leaking out of the extraction site is a sure sign of infection.
See your dentist or oral surgeon right away if you suspect you’re experiencing a post-surgery infection.
Dry socket is a common complication of wisdom tooth removal. While bad breath may be the least of your concerns if you have dry socket, this painful complication can be to blame for less-than-fresh breath.
In the hours immediately following your wisdom tooth extraction, you should see a dark red jelly-like patch of tissue start to form over the socket where the tooth used to be. This patch of jelly is the blood clot, a natural component of the healing process that’s vital to helping the new gum tissue cover over the bone. If that blood clot falls off, the bare bone tissue of the tooth socket will be exposed to the air, which results in the very painful condition known as dry socket.
If you experience dry socket, see a dentist or oral surgeon right away to find out how you can get relief and help your gums start healing again.
A lack of proper oral hygiene can cause bad breath at any point in your life. And after wisdom tooth removal, you might be more likely to slack off on your regular brushing and flossing. This is because you shouldn’t do anything that could disturb the extraction site for a few days after tooth removal.
Your dentist or oral surgeon will tell you to not brush, floss, or rinse your mouth for a full 24 hours after your surgery, and to avoid brushing or flossing around the extraction site for up to one week. Brushing, flossing, and even rinsing can dislodge the blood clot and complicate the healing process.
This change in your oral hygiene routine will likely lead to more bacterial plaque growth — and smelly breath — during that first week after your procedure. Once you’ve fully healed, you can go back to brushing, flossing, and rinsing as usual.
Some people experience delayed-onset infection (DOI) up to four weeks after wisdom tooth removal, long after it appears the extraction site has healed. One study suggests that poor oral hygiene in the weeks after the extraction could increase the risk of developing DOI, so get back to regular brushing and flossing as soon as your dentist or oral surgeon gives you the go ahead.
Saliva is key to having a healthy mouth. Without it, your mouth dries out, which promotes the growth of halitosis-causing bacteria.
After sitting with your mouth open for a while during the extraction appointment (it can take upwards of 20 minutes to remove one wisdom tooth), it’s normal to have bad breath for some time afterward. If you had anesthesia during your procedure, then you might have to deal with dry mouth and a bad taste in your mouth for a few hours longer than usual.
Fortunately, bad breath caused by this kind of dry mouth will quickly resolve on its own!
Medications, particularly the kind prescribed for pain relief, are another potential cause of dry mouth and bad breath after wisdom tooth removal. Add the temporary lack of proper brushing and flossing to a dried-out oral environment, and odor-causing plaque will thrive in your mouth, causing all kinds of unpleasant smells.
You will likely experience dry mouth for however long you take the medication.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene
The first 24 hours after a tooth extraction are absolutely crucial to successful healing, so there isn’t much you can do to clean your mouth without disturbing the extraction site. As mentioned above, avoid brushing or flossing around the extraction site for five to seven days after your procedure.
Your dentist or oral surgeon will give you instructions to gently cleanse your mouth with warm salt water. This light rinse can soothe the wound and loosen some debris — just make sure you don’t swish! A strong rinsing action can dislodge the blood clot you need for proper healing.
Combat the effects of dry mouth and freshen your breath by staying well-hydrated. Water and warm herbal teas can help you get plenty of fluids and make your mouth taste better. Just make sure to avoid hot drinks, which may disturb your blood clots.
Eat Soft Foods and Avoid Sugar (Mostly)
For the first couple days after having your wisdom teeth removed, steer clear of hard and crunchy foods, and opt instead for soft foods. Foods that are easy to swallow without chewing, such as smoothies, yogurt, and scrambled eggs, will help your extraction site heal faster and prevent complications.
Sweet, soft foods can give you the energy you need to heal, but try to keep the sugar to a minimum. Simple carbohydrates, including those found in sugary processed foods, provide fuel for the plaque bacteria that cause tooth decay and bad breath.
Avoid Smoking and Straws
Smoking is known to delay the body’s natural healing process. Additionally, the sucking action used to inhale cigarette smoke or drink out of a straw creates suction in the mouth that can dislodge blood clots, which serve as an important protective layer over the extraction site. Avoid using straws and smoking for at least 72 hours after your tooth extraction.
When to Visit Your Dentist
If your bad breath persists after the extraction site has healed or if the malodor is accompanied by signs that your surgical site isn’t healing properly, contact your oral surgeon or dentist as soon as possible.
Even if saying goodbye to your wisdom teeth is for the best, getting teeth pulled isn’t the most pleasant experience to begin with. Experiencing bad breath after wisdom tooth removal adds insult to injury. The good news is that if you stay hydrated, maintain good oral hygiene, and follow your dentist or oral surgeon’s instructions, you can get rid of bad breath quickly!