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What Happens When Your Body Rejects Dissolvable Stitches?

A tell-tale sign of when your body rejects dissolvable stitches is the presence of a "spitting suture" near the surgical site. That condition is often accompanied by various symptoms such as irritation, redness, swelling, or even infection.


stitches across forehead

We will go over in greater detail about the consequences of a suture rejection and also what you should do about it.


Table of contents:


Spitting suture

The self-dissolving sutures are normally buried underneath the surface of the skin and you can't see them. However, when your body rejects them, you'll notice the stitches trying to come through the surface of your skin or even pierce through it.


Although to be more precise, it is actually your body trying to "push" the stitches out of your body and we call that condition a spitting suture. This is what happens when they don't dissolve properly.


Signs & Symptoms of a spitting suture:

  • Redness in the area

  • Can be slightly swollen

  • Small raised bump

  • Stitches poking through the skin

  • Mild pain or discomfort

  • Foreign body sensation


Make no mistake, this is a pathological condition and is not benign nor good for you.


How to tell if they're supposed to dissolve

The surefire way to know if they can dissolve is to ask your doctor. However, another way to figure it out is to identify them by color.


Absorbable suture colors:

  • Purple or violet

  • Gold or light yellow

  • White

  • Green


various different color stitches after a tooth extraction
various different color stitches after a tooth extraction

Dissolvable wisdom teeth stitches often come in a gold or yellow color (chromic gut).


Consequences

If your body decides to reject the dissolvable stitches from your surgical procedure, there will be consequences. The three most likely adverse outcomes from such an incidence would be discomfort, infection, or delayed healing.


Discomfort

The process of your body trying to spit out the suture can be a source for discomfort and irritation. It's uncomfortable because you're feeling an object trying to move through and out of your skin.


Infection

The area with the rejected absorbable suture will start off with redness (erythema) and mild swelling. However, when left untreated it is not unusual for it to progress and turn into a full blown infection.


Signs & symptoms of infected rejected stitches:

  • Redness with swelling

  • Presence of pus (white fluids) oozing out of the area.

  • Pain

  • Foul smell


Delayed healing

Getting spitting sutures due to a rejection is NOT a part of the normal healing process. Time and resources will need to be spent to treat this condition which means healing of the surgical site will be delayed.


If you did not have them rejected, you would definitely have healed and recovered faster.


What to do

If you've a rejected dissolvable stitch that is spitting, you will need to see your doctor to have it removed and also assessed for infection. It doesn't always get infected but if it does, you will need to have that taken care of as well.


Potential treatments:

  • Removal of the non-accepted stitches.

  • Managing and treating any infection or abscess.


Rejected suture removal

Your doctor may or may not be able to remove the stitches completely.

  • Complete removal. No local anesthesia is required for removal. Your doctor can grab the suture with forceps, college pliers, or hemostat and pull it out.

  • Partial removal. If complete removal is not possible, it is recommended to trim the suture down to skin level as close as possible to the surface.


To be clear, despite the body rejecting it and trying to move it out of the body, it is still being dissolved and absorbed. The partially removed, trimmed down suture will get broken down by your body.


Treating infected rejected stitches

All infections including the infected stitches that are rejected, require professional attention. This is not treatable at home so don't even try to manage it on your own.


Potential treatments:

  • Warm compresses. Applying a compress that is warm to the area will help increase blood flow to the area. This may expedite the healing assisting the body in clearing out the infection.

  • Antibiotics. You should expect to be prescribed antibiotics. Taking them will help get rid of the infection.

  • Specimen culture. Your doctor may take a culture of the area to make sure that you don't have a rare strain of bacterial infection. If that is the case you may need a different antibiotic.

  • Incision and drainage. If it is swollen and fluctuant, it will need to be drained. This procedure will require local anesthesia in order to make it comfortable for you.


Do not delay treatment, seek out medical help immediately.


Takeaway

Typically if your body rejects the dissolvable stitches in the surgical site, the sutures will not dissolve completely. Since it won't get absorbed, you will need to get professional help to remove them.


Often times, these spitting sutures get infected during the process as well which will require additional treatment. Overall, you can expect slower healing if you end up with this condition.


Yes, self-dissolving sutures are supposed to go away on their own but sometimes our bodies have a different plan for them. Unfortunately, that alternative plan is not as pleasant and creates a lot more work than we'd like.

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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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