Open Journal of Stomatology, 2013, 3, 527-532 OJST Published Online December 2013 (
Assessment of the effect of wound closure technique on
postoperative sequaele and complications after impacted
mandibular third molar extraction
E. O. Anighoro1, O. M. Gbotolorun2*, R. A. Adewole2, G. T. Arotiba2, O. A. Effiom3
1Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa, Nigeria
2Oral and Maxillofacial Department, Faculty of Dental Surgery, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
3Oral Pathology Department, Faculty of Dental Surgery, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
Email: *
Received 1 October 2013; revised 13 November 2013; accepted 15 December 2013
Copyright © 2013 E. O. Anighoro et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Aims and Objectives: The aim of the study was to
compare the effect of complete and partial wound
closures on postoperative sequelae and complications
after surgical removal of impacted mandibular third
molars. Patients and Methods: One hundred and
twenty patients who required 121 surgical extractions
of mandibular impacted third molars were included
in the study. Patients were randomly divided into 2
groups based on wound closure after surgery. In
group 1 (complete wound closure, n1 = 60) patients
had their extraction sockets completely closed by
mucosal flap while in group 2 (partial wound closure,
n2 = 60) patients had their extraction sockets partially
closed. Data collected included maximum inter-incisal
distance (MID) and facial width which were recorded
both preoperatively and postoperatively. What also
recorded were postoperative pain intensity and post-
operative complications. Results: There were 50
(41.7%) males and 70 (58.3%) females (male to fe-
male ratio of 1:1.4); age range was 18 - 40 years and
the mean was 26 ± 10 years. The mean ages of pa-
tients in both groups showed no significant difference
(group 1 = 26.5 ± 7.2; group 2 = 27.1 ± 8.1). The pain
was maximal at the first postoperative day review
and it gradually reduced in intensity towards the pre-
operative values for both groups. The pain percep-
tionsin patients in group 2 were however signifi-
cantly lower than those of group 1 on days 1 and 3
but not statistically different on day 7. The mean dif-
ference in the postoperative and preoperative MID
was greatest on the 1st postoperative day and gradu-
ally became smaller on the subsequent review days.
Comparison of this mean difference between the 2
groups however showed a significant difference in the
2 groups only on day 7. Maximal swelling was noted
in both groups on the third postoperative day. A com-
parison of the mean facial width between the two
groups showed no statistically significant difference
on all the review days. The postoperative complica-
tion rate was 5% in both groups. Conclusions: The
results of the study indicate that there was a com-
parative reduction in postoperative sequelae namely
pain and trismus after impacted mandibular third
molar surgery when a partial wound closure tech-
nique was done. However, there was no significant
difference in the postoperative complication rate be-
tween the two groups.
Keywords: Third Molar Surgery; Wound Closure
Technique; Postoperative Sequelae and Complications
The surgical objective in impacted mandibular third mo-
lar removal is to remove the tooth with minimal sequelae
and complications [1-4]. Various methods have been
suggested to prevent or control the postoperative seque-
lae following third molar surgery. These include modu-
lating the time of surgery, the use of copious irrigation
after surgery and the use of drains. There is however still
a high frequency of undesirable sequelae after impacted
mandibular third molar extractions [3,4].
Postoperative pain, swelling, and trismus are acute re-
versible sequelae of the surgical removal of impacted
mandibular third molars. They are generally regarded as
short-term outcomes of the third molar impaction sur-
*Corresponding author.
E. O. Anighoro et al. / Open Journal of Stomatology 3 (2013) 527-532
gery; however, they are reported to cause a significant
deterioration in quality of life and job disruption [5,6].
The magnitude of these sequelae depends on the extent
of inflammatory response resulting from the extent of
tissue damage produced [5]. The magnitude of the in-
flammatory response is reported to depend on certain
demographics including age, gender, oral health status,
anatomic and operative factors such as increased surgical
difficulty, magnitude of ostectomy and duration of sur-
gery [7].
The technique of closure of mucoperiosteal flaps is
also considered to be a factor in the magnitude of these
sequelae [8-12]. Two techniques of closure of the mu-
coperiosteal flap following surgical extraction of the im-
pacted teeth have been documented in literature. In com-
plete closure (resulting in primary healing), the mucope-
riosteal flap is completely or totally closed such that
healing is by primary intention. In partial closure (re-
sulting in secondary healing), the mucoperiosteal flaps
are either partially closed or left completely open without
suturing and healing is by secondary intention [8-12].
There is however no consensus of opinions on the effect
of these techniques on these inflammatory sequelae of
extractions [9,10,12].
A foreknowledge of possible intraoperative experience
and treatment outcome prior to surgery will enable the
psycho-emotional preparation of the patient and further
help the patient to give informed consent before treat-
ment especially in elective surgery. This study is in-
tended to contribute to such knowledge by comparing the
extent of postoperative sequelae that follow lower third
molar surgery in our environment using the two methods
of closure.
The study was carried out at the exodontia Clinic of the
Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Lagos
University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos from
October 2006 to March 2008. Approval for the study was
obtained from the local ethics committee and informed
consent was obtained from all participating patients. Pa-
tients with history suggestive of underlying systemic dis-
eases and those with preoperative pain, pregnant or lac-
tating patients as well as patients who were habitual
smokers were excluded from the study. Patients were
randomly placed in the two operative groups (complete
and partial wound closure groups).
Baseline and postoperative pain assessment scale con-
sisted of a four-point verbal rating scale-VRS. Namely:
“No pain” (patient experienced no pain);
“Mild pain” (pain almost unnoticeable);
“Moderate pain” (noticeable pain, but patient could
still engage in routine daily activities);
“Severe pain” (pain very noticeable and disturbed pa-
tient’s daily routine).
These were analyzed on a 4 point verbal rating scale
of 0 - 3 (0—no pain, 1—mild pain, 2—moderate pain,
3—severe pain). Only patients with no pain on presenta-
tion were admitted into the study.
The maximum inter-incisal distance (MID) measured
with a calibrated sliding veneer caliper as distance be-
tween the upper and lower central incisors at maximum
mouth opening was measured pre and postoperatively.
The facial width was measured by using a horizontal
and vertical guide with a non-extensible measuring tape
in contact with the skin. Initial preoperative facial width
recording provided a baseline reference only. The pro-
cedure for obtaining facial width (swelling) was as fol-
lows [10]:
Patients’ were seated in a relaxed position on the den-
tal chair with the inferior border of the mandible parallel
to the floor. In the vertical measure (on the ipsilateral
side of impacted tooth), a non extensible measuring tape
was placed on the lateral canthus of the eye and its dis-
tance to the angle of the mandible (determined by pal-
pating for the gonion on the side). The measurement was
taken thrice and the average recorded in centimetres
The horizontal measurement was taken as the distance
between the tip of the tragus on both ears measuring over
the gonion of both sides. This was also taken in triplicate
and the average recorded in centimetres (cm).
The facial width was taken as the average of the two
The percentage increase or decrease in facial swelling
and trismus were obtained from the difference of the
measurements made in the preoperative and postopera-
tive period as follows:
Postoperative measurementpreoperative measurement
Preoperative measure
100% change
A standardized surgical protocol was followed for all
patients; a 3 sided flap was raised in all procedures. In
patients in group 1 (complete wound closure), the flap
was repositioned using 3 interrupted sutures placed as
follows one posterior to the extraction socket, the second
at the interdental papilla distal to the second molar and
the third at the attached gingival margin to close the an-
terior relieving incision (Figure 1). In group 2 (partial
wound closure), the flap was repositioned, two inter-
rupted sutures were placed one posterior to the extraction
socket and the other distal to the second molar thereby
leaving the socket open (Figure 2). No dressing was
applied to the open socket. The total operating time was
recorded in minutes for all surgeries.
The patients were reviewed on days 1, 3, and 7 post-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
E. O. Anighoro et al. / Open Journal of Stomatology 3 (2013) 527-532 529
Figure 1. Complete closure.
Figure 2. Partial closure.
operatively, to assess pain, maximum inter-incisal open-
ing and facial width. Post operative complications were
also assessed and recorded. The collected data were ana-
lyzed using the statistical software package for the social
sciences (SPSS) for Windows (version 15.0, SPSS Inc.
Chicago, IL). Descriptive statistics were used as appro-
One hundred and twenty patients satisfied the inclusion
criteria and consented to participate in this study. The
mean age of the sample population was 26 ± 10 years
(range 18 - 40 years). Of the 120 study subjects, 50
(41.6%) were males while 70 (58.3%) were females (ra-
tio 1:1.4). Group 1 had a mean age of 26.5 ± 7.2 while
group 2 had a mean of 27.1 ± 8.1. There was no statisti-
cal significant difference (p > 0.05) between the mean
ages of the two groups.
The respective mean pain scores (days 1, 3 and 7) for the
two treatment groups are shown in Figure 3. There was a
linear decrease in pain over the days of review. Pain was
maximal on the first postoperative day review and it
gradually reduced in intensity towards the preoperative
values for both groups. Differences between the respec-
tive mean pain scores were analyzed to compare the
means on each review day using the paired Independent
Sample T test. Comparison of mean verbal response
scale scores for both groups revealed a statistically sig-
nificant difference between the groups at the 1st and 3rd
postoperative days (p < 0.05), while there was no statis-
tically different on the 7th day.
The mean preoperative maximum inter-incisal distance
(MID) was similar in the two groups (complete wound
closure 4.6 ± 0.2 cm and partial wound closure 4.7 ± 0.2
cm). Patients in both groups had reduced MID in all the
review days; also in both groups the MID was least in the
1st day postoperative and increased in the 2 subsequent
review days in both groups. Comparison between the
mean percentage differences of the MID on the postop-
erative days to the preoperative value in the 2 groups is
as shown in Table 1. The changes in mean MID between
the preoperative MID and postoperative MID in both
groups were statistically significance except on day 7 in
the partial closure group. On comparison between the 2
groups the mean change in MID was only significantly
different on day 7.
The mean preoperative Facial width was 14.6 ± 1.0 cm
and 14.8 ± 0.8 cm, respectively for patients in the pri-
mary and partial wound closure groups. Patients in both
groups had increased facial width dimensions in all the
postoperative day with the greatest increase recorded on
the 3rd day in both groups. Comparison between the
pain score
postoperative day
____Complete closure _____Partial closure
Figure 3. Graphic comparison of mean pain intensities in the 2
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E. O. Anighoro et al. / Open Journal of Stomatology 3 (2013) 527-532
Table 1. Comparison of mean incisal distance (mid) on the 3
postoperative days in the 2 groups.
Complete Closure Partial Closure
Preop FW (cm) 4.6 ± 0.5 4.7 ± 0.6
1st POD (cm) 2.2 ± 0.6 2.7 ± 0.6
Difference cm (%) 2.4 (51.2%) 2.0 (42.5%)
3rd POD (cm) 2.3 ± 0.5 3.1 ± 0.7
Difference (%) 2.3 (50.0%) 1.6 (34.0%)
7th POD (cm) 3.2 ± 0.7 3.8 ± 0.6*
Difference (%) 1.4 (30.4%) 0.9 (19.1%)
*p < 0.05.
mean percentage differences in the facial width on the
postoperative days to the preoperative value in the 2
groups (Tab l e 2 ) showed there was no statistical differ-
ence in any of the postoperative days.
Overall postoperative complication rate was 5%, and
the rate was equal in both groups. There were two cases
(1.7%) of dry socket in partial closure group. One case
(0.83%) of increased intra-operative bleeding was re-
corded in the primary closure group. Three patients
(2.5%) had paraesthesia of the lingual nerve; one of these
patients was in the partial closure and the other two in
the primary closure group. Two patients recovered from
the injuries before the seventh postoperative day review,
the third patient was lost to follow-up.
The mean age of 26 ± 10 years in this study agrees with
that of previous researchers that reported extractions of
the third molars to be more common in patients in their
third decade of life in this environment [7,13-15]. In the
present study, third molar extraction was associated with
significant postoperative discomfort but few healing
complication. The postoperative discomfort reached its
peak by the end of the third postoperative day and im-
proved progressively afterwards up to the 7th day post-
operatively. This is also consistent with the pattern re-
ported by earlier reports [4,6,16]. Postoperative discom-
fort mainly in form of swelling, pain and trismus was
affected by the type of wound closure technique in this
study. This observation is however controversial with
some authors’ agreements [10-12] and others disagreeing
[8,9]. The reason for this discrepancy is unclear.
Pain from postoperative inflammation is generally be-
lieved to be the most important factor responsible for the
discomfort experienced by patients after impacted man-
dibular third molar surgery [17-23]. It is generally re-
ported to be brief, peaking in intensity in the early post-
operative period within the first 24 hours post extraction
[20]. In this study, pain-assessment scales consisted of a
four-point verbal rating scale (no pain, mild pain, moder-
Table 2. Comparison of mean facial width on the 3 postopera-
tive days in the 2 groups.
Complete Closure Partial Closure
Preop FW (cm) 14.6 ± 1.0 14.8 ± 0.6
1st POD (cm) 15.6 ± 0.7 15.4 ± 0.7
Difference cm (%) 1.0 (6.8%) 0.6 (4.1%)
3rd POD (cm) 16.0 ± 0.7 15.5 ± 0.8
Difference (%) 2.6 (9.6%) 0.7 (4.7%)
7th POD (cm) 14.9 ± 0.7 14.9 ± 0.6
Difference (%) 0.3 (2.1%) 0.1 (0.6%)
ate pain, severe pain). The verbal rating scale was used in
this study because it was easily understood by the pa-
tients. This system though reported not to be as effective
as the visual analogue scale (VAS) is reported to be sim-
ple to administer and score [21]. The result of this study
revealed that the highest pain intensity in this study was
recorded on the first postoperative day review; it gradu-
ally decreased in value in both groups during the course
of postoperative review. The pattern of pain in both
groups decreased in a linear fashion with partial wound
closure exhibiting a lower peak (Figure 3). This is in
agreement with the other various reports in literature [4,
11,24]. Result of this study also showed pain to be sig-
nificantly less on all the postoperative review days in pa-
tients who had partial wound closure compared to com-
plete wound closure. The findings were statistically sig-
nificant (p < 0.05) for the first two review days and are in
agreement with the reports of Bamgbose et al. [23].
Postoperative trismus was measured as a percentage
decrease in mouth opening. There was a decrease in
maximum mouth opening ability on all postoperative
review in both groups and the decrease was statistically
significant until the 3rd postoperative day. This implied
that the impact of surgical extraction on patients’ ability
to open their mouths is quite considerable even for some
days after treatment. This was found to be consistent
with reports from some earlier studies [2,18,25]. Patients
in partial closure however seemed to experience better
mouth opening postoperatively than those in the com-
plete closure group in all the 3 postoperative review days
(Ta b le 1 ). The difference in MID in the 2 groups seems
to suggest that the partial closure resulted in better mouth
opening postoperatively although the difference became
statistically significant only on the 7th day. The result
however was in contrast with another study that reported
no statistically significant difference in mouth opening
between patients with or without postoperative drains
after wound closure [4]. In the said study however there
was some degree of open drainage of the sockets in both
groups of patients, whilst in our study there was com-
plete closure of the wound allowing for very little drain-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
E. O. Anighoro et al. / Open Journal of Stomatology 3 (2013) 527-532 531
age from the wound in the primary closure group. This
may be responsible for the differences noted.
Comparison of the differences between the 1st, 3rd and
7th postoperative day reviews showed no statistical dif-
ference between the two groups. It also showed that by
the 7th day the facial swelling had virtually resolved.
Swelling seemed to be at its maximum on the 3rd postop-
erative day followed by a slow reduction over the subse-
quent days (Ta b l e 2 ). This finding is in agreement with
some previous researchers [11,26,27] who all reported
maximal facial swelling at 72 hours. However, some other
studies reported maximal swelling at 48 hours postopera-
tively [13,22]. The differences may be due to variation in
individual inflammatory responses.
An overall complication rate of 5% was recorded in
this study which was within the range recorded in litera-
ture [7]. The complication rate in both groups was equal
in consonance with previous studies in literature [4,18].
This might imply that wound closure methods have little
or no effect on the rate of complications after the third
molar removal.
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