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Wisdom tooth removal usually requires an incision and stitches, also called sutures. Stitches attach the cut gum tissue flap back into place to stabilize it.

Stitches help your incision heal properly and protect the area from infection. The dentist or surgeon performing your wisdom teeth extraction will let you know what type of stitches, if any, they used.

Read on to learn more about wisdom teeth stitches, including types of stitches and how to care for them.

Dissolving stitches disintegrate on their own. Oral surgeons usually use this type after wisdom teeth removal.

Dissolving stitches usually disappear within a few weeks. It can take up to a month or so before your stitches dissolve completely. This is determined by several factors, including:

  • extent of the tooth extraction procedure
  • stitch size and type
  • stitch material used

In some instances, your oral surgeon may use stitches that don’t dissolve on their own. If this is the case, they will let you know when you should return to have the stitches removed.

Removable stitches are usually taken out 7 to 10 days after surgery.

After wisdom tooth removal, you’ll receive aftercare instructions from your oral surgeon. The instructions will tell you how to care for your stitches and the blood clots that form over the extraction holes.

These blood clots are beneficial because they help you avoid dry socket, a potential complication of surgery.

Since every situation is different, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

Typical aftercare instructions

After 24 hours have passed, gently rinse with salt water. Don’t swish or spit. Allow the water to fall out of your mouth.

Your dentist or oral surgeon may give you a prescription for chlorhexidine solution. This is an antibacterial rinse used to reduce the risk of infection. Use chlorhexidine as prescribed.

In some cases, your dentist or oral surgeon may prescribe antibiotics. If they do, be sure to finish the entire prescription.

Avoid flossing or using a toothbrush on the extraction area for 3 to 7 days, or for as long as your dentist or oral surgeon recommends.

Foods to avoid following wisdom teeth extraction

For the first few days, avoid eating foods that might tear or disrupt stitches. Soft foods and drinks are best. They include:

  • smoothies
  • yogurt
  • scrambled eggs
  • mashed potatoes
  • soup

Don’t eat anything sticky, hard to chew, or that may leave food particles in the stitch area. Foods to avoid include:

  • strawberries, raspberries, and other fruits with tiny seeds
  • nuts or crunchy nut butters
  • crunchy foods including popcorn and raw carrots
  • corn on the cob
  • chewy foods including steak
  • chewing gum

Other things to avoid following wisdom teeth extraction

Don’t do anything that causes suction in your mouth, as this can potentially dislodge the stitches. Suction can also dislodge the blood clot that’s starting to form over the wisdom tooth extraction hole.

Things to avoid are:

  • drinking from a straw
  • spitting
  • smoking
  • drinking hot liquids
  • strenuous activity or exercise
  • drinking alcohol

Talk with your oral surgeon to see when you can resume these activities.

What to do if you notice a stitch poking out

In some instances, you may see a loose stitch sticking out. You may also notice that a stitch has fallen out completely. This isn’t cause for concern except in these instances:

  • you see signs of infection
  • the wound has opened
  • the wound is bleeding

If a loose stitch is irritating your gums or the side of your cheek, let your oral surgeon know.

Don’t cut it, pull on it, or attempt to remove it on your own without your oral surgeon’s approval.

Keep in mind that the stitch is continuing to dissolve from the inside out and will fall out or dissolve soon.

There’s always the possibility that infection can occur after any type of tooth extraction. Keeping stitches clean and free of food particles is the best way to avoid this.

Signs of infection include:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • oozing of pus or other fluid
  • pus or blood in nasal discharge
  • redness
  • a new sensation, such as a scratching feeling, in the extraction hole
  • bad taste in the mouth that’s not removed by brushing or rinsing
  • fever

If you suspect infection, call your dentist or oral surgeon immediately. They will most likely prescribe oral antibiotics for you to take. If they do, be sure to finish the entire prescription, even when you begin feeling better.

Oral infections can worsen quickly, so don’t wait to let your dentist or oral surgeon know if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms.

After your stitches have dissolved, you’ll be able to resume eating normally. You’ll also be able to brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush if that’s part of your oral hygiene routine.

However, full recovery from wisdom teeth removal surgery takes time.

The empty wisdom tooth hole (socket) left behind after surgery takes between 3 and 4 months to heal completely. During this time, make sure to keep the area clean and free of food particles.

Wisdom tooth removal is a common type of oral surgery. Dissolvable stitches are typically used to close the wisdom tooth extraction hole. These stitches typically take 7 to 10 days to fall out. In some instances, it may take longer.

Don’t attempt to pull out the stitches on your own unless your oral surgeon has given you the go-ahead.

If you see any signs of infection, call your dentist or oral surgeon immediately.