Surgical sutures (which are generally just called stitches) are used after certain medical procedures in order to hold tissues together in the optimal position for healing. You need to keep those stitches clean and dry, and once the tissues in question have successfully reintegrated, the stitches will be removed. The same process applies when it comes to dental stitches, but the location of the stitches can result in a few additional considerations.
Your Gingival Tissues
Although stitches can be needed following a variety of dental procedures, they're commonly used to hold your gingival tissues together after a tooth has been extracted. Keeping stitches intact can be slightly problematic when they're in your mouth. What happens if these stitches loosen, or even detach?
Signs of Lost Stitches
You won't necessarily know if your dental stitches have become compromised. You may feel a loose thread in your mouth, much like if you swallowed a tiny amount of dental floss. If the wound has ruptured, the site might be bleeding (which you're likely to taste). It could also be that you were inspecting the extraction site while carefully cleaning your teeth and simply happened to notice that the stitches were missing.
It's not always a problem when dental stitches are lost, but you shouldn't assume that all is well, and it's essential to contact your dentist. One of the first things to think about whether your stitches are absorbable. These are stitches that are biodegradable, and will slowly dissolve while being harmlessly absorbed into your mouth. If these stitches should disappear, it might just be that they have dissolved as expected (although this should be clarified with your dentist). But what about when you know those stitches weren't absorbable?
Talk to Your Dentist
The amount of moisture in your mouth, coupled with the pressure and friction that the site will experience (due to the unavoidable movement of your mouth) means that dental stitches don't always stay in position for as long as anticipated. It might be that your healing has progressed to the point that the early departure of your stitches won't affect the end result. It can also be that your dentist will advise you to return for surgery as soon as possible so that the stitches can be reapplied. There's no conclusive outcome, and it really depends on the type of dental procedure that has been performed, along with how long the stitches remained in place.
Unless a wound has ruptured, the premature loss of dental stitches isn't an emergency. It's still important to contact your dentist for precise information about whether the stitches will need to be reapplied.