If you are wondering about how long it takes your wisdom teeth stitches to dissolve, it would depend on the type of stitches your dentist used. There is in fact a plethora of materials that sutures can be made of and not all of them dissolve either.
Therefore, in addition to your question of when the stitches dissolve, you should also be asking if they CAN dissolve in the first place. If they don't melt away on their own, you could very well be waiting longer than Rip Van Winkle and they'll still be in your mouth.
Here are a couple of important topics to understand for answering your question:
Dissolvable stitches vs Non-dissolvable stitches
There are far too many stitches out there to count and they can be made of a variety of different materials. Depending on the type of material it is made of, it could dissolve on its own or it could be non-dissolving. That is the primary difference but another major one has to do with their tensile strength due to their dissolvability.
Examples of dissolvable stitches:
Gut - also known as catgut, it is derived from cow or sheep intestines.
Chromic gut - same material as catgut but it is treated with chromium trioxide to make it more resistant to dissolving.
Vicryl - a synthetic suture that is made of polyglycolic-acid, which consists of lactic acid and glycolic acid.
Examples of non-dissolvable stitches:
Silk - a natural suture made of silk but one of the drawbacks is it's poor microbial resistance.
Nylon - very smooth suture that has excellent tensile strength. Offers a secure knot that is also infection resistant.
PTFE - extremely smooth and biologically inert. It is ideal for bone grafting and implant procedures.
Polypropylene - synthetic, smooth, and triggers a very minimal inflammatory response. Easily distinguishable by its beautiful blue color and it also happens to be my favorite suture of choice when stitching up facial lacerations.
Tensile strength of dissolving vs non-dissolving stitches
Aside from the ability for the stitches to dissolve, another major difference between them is that the non-dissolving stitches tend to be stronger. Since they do not get broken down by the body, they will stay the same as the day they were put in indefinitely. The absorbable sutures on the other hand start to lose their strength after certain amount of days.
A determining factor for when your dentist would choose one over the other would depend on how long they need the stitches to stay in. This is greatly influenced by the type of procedure that was done.
Wisdom teeth stitches. It is usually more than sufficient to use stitches that dissolve on their own for these. In fact, most wisdom teeth extractions do not even require sutures.
Implant stitches. The preference is to use non-dissolving sutures but sometimes they can use the resorbable ones as well.
Bone graft stitches. Bone grafting material and their respective membrane are very expensive. Your dentist will certainly use a non-dissolving stitch to ensure that it has sufficient strength to last long enough for the graft to be absorbed by the body. You don't want to waste any of the precious grafting material by having the stitches fall out.
With that being said, your dentist could also simply choose to use the non-dissolving stitches just because it is their preference. It does work for all situations. The only downside is that since it does not fall out on its own, you would need to return a few weeks later to have the sutures removed.
What type of suture your dentist is most likely to use
The type of suture your dentist will use for a wisdom tooth extraction would depend on the complexity of the treatment. How complicated a wisdom tooth removal is dependent upon how impacted the molar is. Therefore, the level of impaction will determine the type of stitch your dentist will use.
Fully erupted wisdom tooth
If your third molar is fully erupted, not covered by bone nor gums, it will be considered a routine extraction. This is as simple as the procedure could be, if you could call it simple.
Since the tooth is not impacted at all, the process to remove it will not involve cutting into the gums to lay a flap. In layman's terms, it will not require stitches 99.9% of the time. Your dentist will most likely just let it heal on its own.
However, if your dentist does want to put in sutures for whatever reason, they will most likely use a dissolvable one.
Partially impacted wisdom tooth
A partially impacted wisdom tooth can still be on a spectrum of partial impactions. Some could just be slightly impacted but others could be moderately impacted. Depending on the severity of impaction, you may or may not need stitches.
For a slightly impacted one, you could very well not need any stitches at all such as in the photo above. The molar is mostly erupted but is simply covered by a little piece of the gum on the back of the tooth.
For a wisdom tooth that is more than slightly partially impacted, there is a good chance you may need stitches afterwards. The reason is because your dentist may need to cut away some of the excess gums in order to expose the tooth for removal.
Afterwards they will need to stitch it back up so that you can leave the office similar to how you came in. Usually for these situations, a dissolvable stitch should still be sufficient. However, they can put in a non-resorbable one as well.
Fully impacted wisdom tooth
A complete bony fully impacted wisdom tooth will definitely need stitches after the extraction. The primary reason is that the tooth is usually completely submerged underneath the gums and encased in the jaw bone. Your dentist will need to cut through the gums and drill through the bone to expose the tooth for removal.
This is a very complicated process and it will require stitches. Sometimes the stitches can dissolve but other times it may not be dissolvable. This will depend on the specific situation and your dentist's preference. The more severe it is, the more likely it will be a suture that won't resorb.
How long do wisdom teeth stitches take to dissolve?
Only stitches that are able to dissolve will dissolve because the ones that don't will never break down on their own. If you've been able to determine that yours is the former, then it would depend on what type of dissolvable stitches it is.
Chart of stitches and their dissolving time:
Type of Suture
The information about the type of stitch and their respective dissolving times were referenced from this study.
Therefore, depending on what type of suture material your dentist used will determine when they dissolve. It could be as short as a week but it could also be as long as 4 weeks.
Most common wisdom tooth suture
Although we would have to say that one of the most common and popular resorbable suture that is used by dentists is the chromic gut. Probably about 95% of the time, your dissolving wisdom teeth stitches will be the chromic gut.
Thus, you can most likely expect them to go away on their own in about 10-14 days as per the chart above.
When stitches dissolve vs when they get absorbed
The most common dissolving stitches that dentists use after wisdom teeth removal are chromic gut sutures which are made of animal intestines and they "dissolve" after 10-14 days. Even though we say that they dissolve, they technically don't get fully absorbed by the body until roughly 70 days.
What we mean by fully absorbed is if we planted a spool of chromic gut sutures deep inside of your body, it would take a total of 70 days for it to be gone. This number is much different than the 10-14 days, which we tell our patients.
The reason why we tell our patients that the stitches will dissolve in 10-14 days is because the sutures usually break down enough where they usually fall out on their own. It doesn't have to be fully broken down for them to come out. Those two weeks are sufficient for them to no longer be noticeable in your mouth.
Even if there are small pieces remaining in the extraction socket, they're small enough that you won't notice them. Just be aware that they will continue to break down via hydrolysis by the body over the next 70 days.
The Verdict - So, when do wisdom teeth stitches dissolve?
Out of practicality, we tell all of our patients that their wisdom teeth stitches should dissolve within 10-14 days. The cold hard truth is that it will take about 70 days for them to completely disappear. It is just that by the 2 week mark, they're usually broken down enough that the majority of it will have fallen off.
Just to remind you, this is only if the sutures that your dentist placed were resorbable. If they happen to use one that does not dissolve on their own, you would have to return in a few weeks to have them physically removed.
The type of stitches that your dentist uses depends on the situation and what is needed. If they need the stitches to stay in because the procedure was more complicated, they will opt for a non-absorbable one for better security and strength. If it was a simpler treatment, you will most likely receive the chromic gut sutures and those will go away in roughly two weeks.
Hopefully that answers all of the questions which you may have had on wisdom teeth stitches and the amount of time it takes them to go away.