What To Do If Wisdom Teeth Stitches Are hanging

Getting stitches isn't exactly the most pleasant thing in the world and having them for your wisdom teeth are no exception. What can make it even more complicated is if the stitches happen to be hanging a few days after the extraction.


Should you be concerned that the stitches are hanging? Do you need to do anything about them or could you just leave them be? This article will explore everything that you need to know about the wisdom teeth sutures that may be hanging by a thread.



Types of hanging wisdom teeth stitches:



Wisdom teeth stitches hanging because they're too long

In order to prevent the stitches from coming out, your dentist has to tie a surgical knot over the wisdom tooth hole. The knots are typically more stable and less likely to come out if the ends are left longer.


Suture knots that have short ends are more likely to loosen up and come undone on their own. For this reason, your dentist will want to keep the ends of the knots a certain length. Here is a photo of sutures that are very long.


very long stitches that are hanging
Credit Dr Seth Rush

Unfortunately, sometimes the ends of the stitches may end up being too long and they'll feel like they're hanging off the side. This actually offers better knot security but the downside is that it may irritate your tongue or your cheeks.


It is uncomfortable enough to have a wisdom tooth hole that is still healing but if you add in long hanging sutures, it may be additional irritation that you don't need. You may be wondering what you can do about these extra long ends of the stitches.



What you should do if they're too long

You don't have to put up with these extra long stitches that are hanging and jabbing into your tongue or cheeks. You can simply let your dentist know and they can trim it down for you. The whole procedure should take less than a minute.


Your dentist has to literally just snip the ends to shorten them so that the stitches are no longer hanging. It is a very simple procedure and you can probably do it yourself but we would advise against doing so.


The reason we do not recommend cutting the ends yourself is if you happen to accidentally cut the wrong part of it. What can happen is that the entire knot can come out if you do that! Therefore it would be best for you to just let your dentist do it. It only takes them about a minute or two anyway.




Wisdom teeth stitches are loose so they're hanging

Alternatively, the wisdom teeth stitches could be hanging because they're loose. What this looks like is that the suture itself looks perfectly intact. It doesn't seem broken anywhere at all. The only issue with it is that it looks "loose".


When we say it looks loose, we mean that it looks like it could've been tied tighter. Was that intentional and did it always look that way? Perhaps it only started to look loose a few days after the procedure.


Here is an example of what we mean by loose stitches:


loose stitches that are hanging
loose stitches that are hanging

Hanging stitches that are loose don't look taut. They look like they have a lot of slack in them and they could potentially be pulled tighter.



What you should do if they're loose

Since the sutures are not damaged in any way, we actually recommend to leave them alone. The primary reason for doing so is because loose hanging stitches are actually a natural progression of healing.


The stitches are usually only taut and tight for the first few days. Once the gums start to heal and the wisdom tooth hole starts to close, the stitches will appear like they've loosened, which gives them a hanging look.


In addition to that, dissolvable wisdom teeth stitches actually start to lose tension after a predetermined amount of time. Yes, you read that correctly. Stitches that dissolve on their own are meant to lose tension and start to look slack after awhile.


That is not a problem because the sutures have served their purpose, which is to help the gums come closer together so that they can heal quicker. When you see them start hanging like that and they're not broken, it simply means that they've healed sufficiently enough for them to become less taut!



Wisdom teeth stitches are about to fall off

The last reason that the wisdom teeth stitches could be hanging is that they're about to fall off. The most likely scenario for this to happen is if you have self dissolving stitches and it has been more than a week.


The most common dissolvable stitches used after wisdom teeth extractions are chromic gut sutures. These will fall out in about 10-14 days so if you've had them in for about a week, it may be time for them to start coming off.



What you should do if they're hanging by a thread

You don't have to panic because it is supposed to happen. They were manufactured to be able to be broken down by your body albeit slowly. The reason why it takes almost two weeks for them to be broken down is because that is how long your dentist needs the stitches to be in place.


Usually when it is about time for the sutures to come off, sufficient healing has taken place where they are no longer needed. The stitches have served their purpose so they can come off and it won't be a problem.


What you can do is just leave them alone and let them fully dissolve or you can contact your dentist. If the remaining pieces that are hanging are bothering your tongue or cheeks, you can have your dentist remove them.


You should not try to remove them on your own because there is a certain way that they should be removed in order to minimize bacterial contamination. Yes, you read that correctly, there is a specific way to pull the stitches out. If you do it the wrong way you can potentially introduce bacteria into the extraction socket. You don't want to end up with an infection afterwards.




Takeaway

Stitches for your wisdom teeth aren't meant to be permanent. Their purpose is to allow sufficient healing for the gums and once that is achieved, they've served their purpose and are no longer needed.


Usually when you start feeling that the stitches are hanging, it means that they've served their purpose. You can leave them alone and let them fully come out on their own if they're dissolvable stitches. However, if they are hanging and its not time for them to come out yet, you can always contact your dentist to have them shortened or removed.


However, dissolvable stitches are the ones that are most commonly used after wisdom teeth extractions so you most likely don't have to worry about it. It is less common to use non-resorbing sutures for wisdom teeth. The ones that don't dissolve are usually reserved for implants and bone grafting.

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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!