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Bad Taste After Wisdom Teeth Removal: Normal vs Complications

A bad taste in your mouth after wisdom teeth removal can be normal but it could also be an indication of a complication. Depending on what the exact cause of the bad taste is, you may or may not need further treatment.




We will explain why each of these conditions can cause a foul taste in your mouth and also give you tips on how to get rid of the malodor.


 

Normal causes of bad taste

The foul taste after wisdom teeth extraction can stem from normal causes such as bleeding from the socket or dry mouth. These two conditions are normal consequences of tooth removal and are not considered to be complications.


Potential causes of the bad taste:

  • Residual or dried blood from the extraction socket.

  • Dry mouth from inadequate water intake, oral hygiene, or side effect from medications.


Bleeding socket

Most of the bleeding from the wisdom teeth should've stopped after the first day of surgery. Although trace amounts of blood oozing out of the socket is not unusual for even up to one week post-op.


Bleeding socket after extraction
Bleeding socket after extraction

The bad taste could very well stem from you tasting this small amount of blood that may be oozing out of the wisdom tooth hole. In case you forgot, there is a lot of iron (Fe) within blood that gives it that weird metallic taste.


How to get rid of this taste:

  • Rinse your mouth vigorously with salt water.

  • Brush and floss your teeth.


Xerostomia

When the mouth becomes dry (xerostomia), bacteria become more active and they can produce a lot of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). The VLCs are a source for malodor in the mouth.


Reasons for dry mouth after extractions:

  • Insufficient water intake. You may have been thrown off your normal routine and not getting enough water. The experience of having the third molars taken out can be traumatizing enough to make you forget to drink water.

  • Inadequate oral hygiene. A lot of people are afraid of brushing near the extraction sites since it can be tender. Decreased brushing equates to increased plaque and bacteria build up.

  • Medication side effect. Xerostomia is a common side effect of prescription medications. Perhaps your dentist prescribed you a medicine that made you more prone to dry mouth.


If the poor taste in your mouth is from a dry mouth, you should definitely drink a lot more water. The water will wash away bacteria and keep the oral environment clean. You should also increase the frequency of your teeth brushing as well.


 

Bad taste from complication

The bad taste from wisdom teeth removal can be due to a complication such as an infection, food stuck in the socket, or even a dry socket. These conditions will require a follow up with your dentist to have them treated.


Potential complications:

  • Infection or abscess

  • Food lodged into socket

  • Dry socket


These types of poor taste are a sign that something has gone awry during the healing process.


Infection

Having a bad taste after wisdom teeth removal could very well be a sign of an infection. You just had your teeth surgically extracted and now there is an open wound which is more prone to infections.


Typically a tell tale sign of this would be bad tasting drainage that oozes out of the wisdom tooth hole. The drainage may be white in color or it could be mixed with a red color.

  • White color is from purulence (pus).

  • Red color is from blood.


An infected socket will require treatment by your dentist.


Potential treatment:

  • Socket debridement. The socket may need to be drained in order for the abscess or infection to clear out. This is a physical procedure that needs to be professionally treated.

  • Antibiotics. Make no mistake, you will be leaving the appointment with a full course of antibiotics to help get rid of the infection.


Stuck food

Food can get stuck in the wisdom tooth hole and that could very well be the source of the poor taste in your mouth. It happens because you've a wide open socket where the tooth used to be and all food particles smaller than the hole can get stuck in it.


Food stuck in extraction socket
Food stuck in extraction socket

Essentially the malodor stems from stuck food that begins to ferment in the socket. Imagine leaving your lunch out on the table for a couple of days... It would not only smell bad but also taste bad wouldn't it? Now apply that same concept to food in your wisdom tooth hole!


This condition is a lot more prominent during the first week after having the third molars removed because that is when the socket is the largest. However, as you heal the hole will get smaller and smaller. In other words, the chances of food getting stuck will decrease.


How to treat this

The only way to get rid of the bad taste from stuck food is to get rid of the stuck food. The 3 most common ways to dislodge the food is with salt water rinsing, syringe irrigation, and using a water flosser.



All three of those are home remedies which you can try at home. If you really can't get it out you can always make a follow up appointment with your dentist.


Dry socket

A bad taste in your mouth could also be due to the formation of a dry socket (alveolar osteitis) since it is one of its symptoms. Although if you're having a dry socket, the poor taste would be the least of your worries because this condition is typically accompanied by excruciating pain.


That is actually how you rule out having a dry socket. Are you having an unbearable toothache? If the answer is yes, then you may have it but if the answer is no, then it's probably something else.


Treatment

There is currently no cure for this condition so most of the treatments are palliative.

  • Induce bleeding. Drill small holes into the jaw bone to get it to bleed and hopefully that stimulates healing.

  • Curettage and irrigation. Alternatively, your dentist may curettage (scrape) the inside of the socket to clean it and induce healing. Finally they'll flush out the site with an antibiotic solution or saline.

  • Place stitches. Stitching up the extraction hole tightly will decrease the size of it and hopefully it'll prevent food and debris from getting into it. This may help reduce the incidences of painful sensations.

  • Dry socket paste. A special eugenol based medication in the form of a paste that can be placed inside of the socket. It was designed to be soothing and help alleviate socket pain. The dry socket paste is typically left inside of the wisdom tooth hole for 3-5 days.

  • Mouth rinse. Frequently rinsing with salt water or chlorhexidine mouthwash can keep the area clean and free of debris. This may help reduce pain and promote healing.

  • Pain medication. Alveolar osteitis is painful and what better way to alleviate pain than to take pain medication. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or even opioids can help reduce pain.


This painful condition will usually heal but it will be on a delayed timeline.


Takeaway

A poor taste in your mouth after having the third molars taken out could be a sign that something is wrong. There are complications where the malodor is a symptom.


However, there can also be conditions where it may be a normal part of the healing process. If you're in doubt you should contact your dentist and have them take a look. Our dentists in Long Island City offer in person dental consultations if you're nearby.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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