Wisdom teeth woes: my mouth smells like roadkill.
April 30, 2013 10:19 PM   Subscribe

I had all 4 wisdom teeth taken out on Friday morning under general anesthetic. I'm still dealing with some adverse side effects (am I being neurotic?) The most troublesome one is that my mouth tastes/smells putrid. I cannot get this under control. HELP.

The swelling has mostly gone down, and I've only been taking Advil since Sunday. However, the bleeding has not completely subsided. I called the oral surgeon's office Monday morning, and the receptionist said bleeding was normal. But now I'm going into day 6 post-op and I still have traces of blood in my saliva constantly. After I brush my teeth, my breath is normal for about 15 minutes before turning rancid again. This is killing me. At work (thankfully, I work at a dental office), I've been rinsing with mouthwash as often as I can-- at least every 45 minutes, to keep my mouth somewhat under control. But I feel like the effect of this is akin to a person spritzing on some perfume after not bathing for a month. The taste is so bad that it wakes me up in the middle of the night. I'm assuming it's because of the bleeding? I can't really see far back enough to get a good view of the extraction sites but I imagine there are some gross blood clot/scabs forming back there with residual blood leaking out from underneath, thus radiating the smell of dead bodies from the back corners of my mouth.

The only solid food I've had since the surgery was scrambled eggs and 2 cookies (huge lapse in judgment) on Saturday night, after which I gently rinsed with salt water. Other than that I've been eating only mush/smoothies. I haven't used a straw and I don't smoke.

My main question is obviously how to control the smell. Do salt water rinses work? I've been doing this, but maybe not as often as I should be. Is gum OK or is that bad for the sockets? Mints? I figured mints would have a similar issue to straws with the whole sucking thing.

The taste is like a mix of copper, blood, and really bad morning breath, if that helps. Sorry to be graphic.

Other, less pressing issues: how soon can I resume my yoga routine? When do I start eating solid foods again? Do I just play it by ear, or is there a definite threshold you have to pass (i.e., 1-2 weeks) before you go back to being a normal person? Should I be brushing the extraction sites? I've been carrying out my normal oral hygiene routine (brush, floss, mouthwash) and just avoiding the wisdom tooth areas. Can I go out and drink alcohol this weekend?

I've directed a few of my questions to the dentist I work for, and it was all sort of brushed off as a "that's all very normal for wisdom teeth" type thing. I have not brought up the breath issue because I'm mortified. FWIW, I don't have any significant pain other than some jaw soreness and sensitivity in my second molars.

All answers and anecdotes will be much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
These are all questions that you must ask your oral surgeon. Everything, including your discomfort with the odor has to be addressed by a qualified professional who can assess your healing in person. Nobody on the Internet has any business trying to assess your situation. Number of days to yoga is not a constant, by any means. Ignore any stranger who says 'you'll be fine for yoga in another ____.' (healing, type of yoga, your fitness level, these all need to be taken into account.)

Call the surgeon to request a follow up. If one was scheduled, ask that it be moved sooner.

Also, ask the surgeon about mouthwash - it may be drying out the extraction sites.
posted by bilabial at 10:30 PM on April 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

You're bleeding and possibly have an infection. You gotta contact your doctor.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:49 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

1) You should NOT be rinsing with mouthwash! ONLY salt water. The alcohol in mouthwash is going to halt your healing and burn your wounds.

Some bad breath is normal and bleeding, however your bleeding may be due to the fact that you are rinsing with mouthwash, seriously everything I have read says specifically not to do that.

SWISH with saltwater (warm) don't RINSE (hard) as it can disturb your sockets.

I had bad breath for quite a while as I couldn't really adequately brush. Brush your tongue too, as most bad breath comes from your tongue gunk.

2) Have your surgeon LOOK at them. Make an appointment. Followups should be included free. They can check your sockets/sutures. Never be embarrassed to ask about a problem you are having, bad breath is a common dental problem.

3) Eat when you feel like you can. Try softer foods first. Your jaw will be sore. You probably want to wait at least 2 weeks before yoga. Try some at home and see how you do - personally my gums throbbed with any activity for at least a couple weeks.

Had all 4 wisdom teeth pulled a couple years ago.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:00 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Something is amiss. I've had 2 rounds of extractions and never experienced what you are describing. Ask your dentist/oral surgeon.
posted by 26.2 at 11:01 PM on April 30, 2013

I don't think your yoga routine needs to be postponed. You don't yoga with your mouth, right? (Not meaning to be snarky, just a bit confused.)

Truly, you need to call the office of the surgeon who did the extractions, asap. I do not understand why you are delaying this.

I've had two wisdom teeth yanked in the chair, and the bleeding stopped within hours (and all swelling/pain within a couple of days). So no, not normal, I suspect.
posted by Salamander at 11:14 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Putrid smell probably means infection. When you talk to the surgeon or dentist, that's the most important thing to bring up!
posted by zsazsa at 11:20 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

My wisdom teeth are removed and I know exactly what you're experiencing. My brother also ran into this problem. However, we previously used a Waterpik to get food out of our braces, which in turn assisted in removing food deposits from the surgical incisions inside the wisdom teeth. Essentially, swishing salt water around in your mouth isn't going to help much. Sure, it'll relieve pain and help with infection, but not to remove the food which has sank into incision. This food was pressed down into the holes and will easily wash away with a little force. Using the Waterpik for the first time isn't pretty and won't let you down on a gruesome smell.

The Waterpik has several pressure levels. The lowest setting will allow you to gently wash away the built up. Instant gratification. Probably at local Walgreens/CVS/Target/whatever.

Good luck.
posted by Wynkoop at 12:03 AM on May 1, 2013

Waterpik will work, also if you get a followup appointment, they can give you an irrigation syringe. (For free) Same idea, but you should get them checked and get the go-ahead to use it so you don't flush out blood clots and get a dry socket. (Generally you need to wait at least 5 days so you don't disturb the blood clot and risk a dry socket.)
posted by Crystalinne at 12:17 AM on May 1, 2013

Settle down everybody, this really is just normal wisdom tooth stuff. The first thing that happens in the extraction site is a blood clot, but after a few days that clot is a mass of dead cells that have to be digested as your bone begins to heal and refill the socket, and those dead cells can smell pretty bad -- times 4 if you had all 4 3rd molars extracted.
Irrigation with salt water just helps wash away any tissue that is sloughing at the surface, so you either swallow it or spit it out, but that's ok.
It can take weeks for the process to be completed, depending on your metabolism. Sometimes food can get into the socket, and that can smell bad too, but it sounds like your hygiene is under control.
Return to normal foods as you can...if it hurts to do that-- don't do that -- is a good rule, but it makes sense to avoid nuts and pretzels and foods that can lodge in the sockets as sharp jagged chunks.
By now there shouldn't be any harm in going out and having a drink or two, especially if there is no pain.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:48 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

The bad taste will go away soon. I had all four out when I was fifteen and can remember what OP is describing.
posted by brujita at 1:00 AM on May 1, 2013

Ugh, that bad taste is the worst. I had an upper wisdom tooth removed a few weeks ago and I can still remember that nasty stink. I ended up going back to the dentist to make sure everything was ok and was told it's pretty normal and there was no infection, but to keep rinsing with salt water or medicated non-alcoholic mouthwash as others have described above.

If you're truly worried, there's nothing wrong with making an appointment to see a medical professional for a final reassuring word on what's going on in there.
posted by fight or flight at 3:21 AM on May 1, 2013

When I had my wisdom teeth out I was terrified of getting an infection and was told not to bend over (by friends etc) in order to avoid disrupting the healing process and getting the dreaded dry sockets. That's why yoga would be a no. ANYWAY, definitely definitely definitely go and see the dentist again and/or call the oral surgeon. I don't see a downside to doing this. Why wait? It's uncomfortable, feels gross and may be an infection. Call today.
posted by bquarters at 4:24 AM on May 1, 2013

When I went back for my follow-up, I got a syringe to inject warm salt water into the holes to clear any food buildup, as did my husband when he got his out. Yes, it tasted terrible between the rotting food and the blood clot, etc.

Definitely stop with the mouthwash and go back to salt-water rinses/gargles.

Check in with your surgeon - they should be available for followup if you seem to be experiencing any weirdness. You presumably paid a lot for the surgery, with or without insurance, so contact them for more info. They'll ask you some questions and then either have you come in or not, but it should put your mind at ease. They do this all the time and have seen everything - use that resource!
posted by bookdragoness at 5:20 AM on May 1, 2013

I don't think your yoga routine needs to be postponed. You don't yoga with your mouth, right? (Not meaning to be snarky, just a bit confused.

You're not supposed to do any inversions after oral surgery. Anything where your head is below your heart is a bad idea.
posted by elizardbits at 6:25 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

It could be just dried blood and stuff getting old and decaying and making your mouth stink. Or it could be an infection that left without swift treatment, could kill you. Seriously, I'm not trying to be an alarmist jerk here, but you need to have it looked at. I mean you work in a dentist office. Even your regular dentist should be able to look in your mouth and tell you within 2 minutes whether it's infected or not. If it is, you probably will not die, they will prescribe an antibiotic, and everything will be fine. But don't take the chance. And be sure to tell your dentist, oral surgeon, whatever, ALL of your symptoms, including the putrid smell. You have nothing to be mortified about, the smell is almost certainly coming from what's going on with your healing mouth, not because of anything you've done. Any dentist will understand this.
posted by katyggls at 7:15 AM on May 1, 2013

I work at a dental office

I think you may find you get much better answers at work than you're going to get here.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:36 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Palpate your gums for tender spots-- your palate, too. Tenderness -> inflammation -> infection.

I had an issue with pieces of food getting trapped in my mouth following my extraction. I bought (at a drugstore) something that appears to be called an interdental brush. It's designed to cover larger spaces between teeth for those with receded gums, but it also gets food out of the sockets. You don't want to really go to town in the sockets with anything stiff-- the healing matter in there needs to do its job. But you do have to get food out.

However, I had been, by that time, briefed by my oral surgeon. If you haven't been to yours or at least your dentist, start there and ask about the use of such a brush. An infection is a possibility, and the sooner it's fought, the less likely you are to start losing gums, teeth, jaw, life.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:53 AM on May 1, 2013

There is a mouthwash called Therabreath. It is the omega of mouthwashes. You can find it at most drug stores and grocery stores these days but there's typically only a little of it on a low shelf. Look for the green bottle. It doesn't use alcohol, which is harsh and dries out tissues. It uses stabilized chlorine dioxide, which kills the microbes that excrete the volatile sulfur compounds that stink so bad. It has a fresh flavor but doesn't use turbo mint to try to mask odor like you mention. The perfume-on-a-hobo effect can happen even to people who aren't in your situation, and not only does it not do more than partially mask the problem, but even that doesn't last long. This stuff on the other hand kills the problem at the source for hours under normal circumstances. You have an especially challenging mouth situation going on right now, with a "source" that's not going anywhere soon, but it's worth a try. They also make a toothpaste, btw, which might get you some additional effect if the little guys have colonized the whole mouth, if this is even the same kind of situation. I would think the rinse would be more useful for periodic relief during the day though. Good luck. I hope it helps!
posted by kookoobirdz at 9:30 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

You need one of those special needle-less syringes to squirt water to clean out the food building up.
posted by meepmeow at 10:48 AM on May 1, 2013

Could be dry socket. You should go in and have them check. If you have dry socket (I'm guessing not, because they told me that usually comes with massive pain), they can put in a medicated dressing that helps a lot.
posted by rikschell at 11:00 AM on May 1, 2013

Agreeing with those who say the area needs to be flushed out. When I had my wisdom teeth out, I had to get food flushed out of the sockets. My mouth smelled like death until I had that done. (FWIW, it wasn't dry sockets and I had no pain). Hope you feel better soon.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:04 AM on May 1, 2013

Nthing the "check with a real dentist/oral surgeon in-person first" advice.

But if he clears you for infection/other nastiness, and there's still lingering bad-taste issues that you'll just need to deal with a while, one thing I found worked well at keeping a bad taste in my mouth at bay was Jolly Rancher hard candies.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 AM on May 1, 2013

Salt water rinses, talk to your dentist.

If no one else can smell the 'putrid' but you, however, I'd lay it on the anaesthesia. I had my wisdom teeth take out in a single four-bang in a twilight state (but I didn't need surgery, just the yanking out), and nothing like that.

But when I was under for my gall bladder, a few days afterwards the byproducts of the anaesthesia started leeching out of my fat tissues and oh god, the horror of taste. Even water tasted horrific me. I could barely eat or drink.

If other people can smell it, though, that might be problematic and the previous answers are excellent. It might be a sign of an infection.
posted by mephron at 12:35 PM on May 1, 2013

Check with your surgeon's office.

I had a similar experience a few days after my wisdom teeth were taken out, the stench and taste were unbearable. The surgeon's office had me come in for a quick appointment, he wound up using tweezers and a waterpik to clean out food caught in the incisions.

Much better to have someone who can see what they're doing tackle this rather than digging around in there on your own and possibly causing complications.
posted by superna at 3:02 PM on May 1, 2013

I'd blanked on the syringe (30 years ago!,), but nthing that.
posted by brujita at 4:30 PM on May 1, 2013

Nthing talk to your oral surgeon. In my case (also all 4 out at the same time), the funkiness was part of the healing process and everything turned out fine. But there's no way to know if that's true for you without getting your own doctor's opinion.
posted by Lexica at 7:19 PM on May 1, 2013

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