Wisdom tooth extractions can provide many health benefits; the procedure reduces the risk of tooth crowding and the risk of cavities since third molars can be difficult to keep clean. Extractions are a very common dental procedure, but like with any surgery, you will need to follow your dentist's aftercare instructions to prevent complications. One possible side effect after a wisdom tooth extraction is a condition called trismus. Take a look at why trismus occurs and how to resolve its symptoms.
What is Trismus?
Trismus is a condition where the muscles of the jaw produce spasms around the temporomandibular joint. Some people may confuse trismus for tetanus, but tetanus is caused by a bacterial infection, while trismus occurs because of some kind of trauma to the jaw. Along with spasms, trismus may cause your jaw muscles to feel tight or even reduce the range of motion of your mouth opening and closing. While trismus may be exacerbated by yawning or chewing solid food, muscles may feel tight and uncomfortable even when the jaw is at rest.
Why Does it Happen During Wisdom Tooth Extractions?
When your dentist extracts a wisdom tooth, he or she will prop your mouth open for a lengthy period of time, which can fatigue the facial muscles and lead to trismus. A patient is more likely to develop trismus if he or she already suffers from a TMJ disorder. Furthermore, swelling and edema associated with surgical trauma can lead to trismus. Lastly, one study found that trismus is also more likely to occur in distoangular impacted teeth, or teeth that haven't erupted and are angled towards the back of the mouth.
How Do You Treat it?
Temporary soreness in jaw muscles after an extraction is quite common and should fade within a few days to a week. Trismus occurs when this type of pain doesn't fade. If you are still experiencing symptoms, your dentist will want to conduct imaging tests and examine your jaw to diagnose trismus or rule out other possible causes.
Thankfully, trismus caused by tooth extractions can be easily handled with a variety of treatments. For instance, over-the-counter pain medications, prescribed muscle relaxants, and/or ice/heat packs can help to loosen up tight muscles and reduce pain from spasms. If you have chronic trismus that's related to another condition, like a TMJ disorder, your dentist may prescribe physical therapy to improve your jaw mobility.
Ultimately, you can avoid trismus by following your dentist's aftercare instructions. For instance, you may be tempted to start eating chewy foods after a soft food diet, but reintroducing foods slowly can prevent trismus.
Reach out to a dentist today to learn more about post-op instructions so that you can have a smooth recovery after your wisdom teeth surgery.