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Did You Accidentally Rinse Your Mouth After An Extraction?

Updated: Oct 19

Accidentally rinsing your mouth after an extraction can potentially dislodge the blood clot from the socket which results in continued bleeding. Although sometimes you can get lucky and it doesn't resume bleeding.


Cup with water to rinse
Cup with water to rinse

Worry not, we're here to guide you through this crisis from your accidental blunder. To be crystal clear, everything we say here will also apply to wisdom teeth.


Consequences of rinsing after tooth extraction

If you accidentally rinse your mouth after the extraction such as with Listerine or even plain water, one of two things can happen.


Outcomes from rinsing after extraction:

  • Bleeding worsens. You notice the tooth socket start to bleed more. The amount and intensity of the bleeding is increasing.

  • Nothing happens. Surprisingly, absolutely nothing happened after rinsing your mouth. You were expecting something bad to occur but nothing ever did.


Rinsing may increase risk of bleeding

The worse outcome from rinsing too soon after the surgical extraction of a tooth may lead to more bleeding. The intraoral pressure that from vigorous rinsing can potentially dislodge the blood clot which is still in the process of stabilizing.


extraction socket
extraction socket

During the first few hours after the procedure, the clot that forms is not mature and it's fairly unstable. For the clot to stabilize, it takes about 24 hours after your procedure before it can withstand rinsing pressure.


If you rinse before the blood clot has stabilized, it will come out and that is when you start bleeding again. For this reason, we recommend abstaining from rinsing until the day after.


The clotting process (hemostasis) explained:

  1. Blood vessel constriction. Within 30 minutes of an extraction, vascular spasms ensue which leads to vasoconstriction. Constriction leads to decreased bleeding.

  2. Platelet plug formation. The platelets arrive and adhere to one another and form a temporary platelet plug. This can momentarily stop the bleeding but it's not very stable.

  3. Activate coagulation cascade. The cascade leads to activation of platelets which strengthens them.

  4. Fibrin clot formation. The final step of the coagulation cascade leads to fibrin deposition. The blood clot stabilization happens during this stage.


Can it cause a dry socket?

Contrary to popular belief, rinsing after an extraction does not cause a dry socket (alveolar osteitis). Although it is unknown as to what causes the condition, what we do know is that it is a biological process and not mechanically induced. That is why activities which may forcefully dislodge the blood clot (rinsing) do not lead to it.


Why rinsing did worsen the bleeding

Sometimes you can get lucky and the rinsing did not make the bleeding worse. Perhaps the blood clot has stabilized just enough to withstand the intraoral pressure.


Stabilized blood clot in socket
Stabilized blood clot in socket

Alternatively, maybe you only rinsed lightly so the pressure wasn't enough to dislodge the clot. Disappointment or a sigh of relief? Consider yourself lucky but, don't do that again because you may not be so fortunate next time!


How to deal with the aftermath

What you should do afterwards to correct your mistake of rinsing after an extraction would depend on what happened. Is it bleeding or is it not bleeding?


We've created a decision tree diagram to help you determine what you should do.


Decision tree for what to do if you accidentally rinse after an extraction
Decision tree

To be crystal clear, these instructions are valid for all teeth including your wisdom teeth.



It's bleeding

If the extraction socket has resumed bleeding, you must bite on gauze again.

  1. Take two pieces of gauze.

  2. Fold them in half twice.

  3. Place gauze over extraction socket.

  4. Bite down with firm pressure.

  5. Remove after 30 minutes.

  6. Repeat steps #1-5 until it stops bleeding.

If you've run out of gauze, you can use a wet black tea bag as a substitute. The tannins in it have hemostatic properties which actually makes it more effective for stopping the bleeding.

  1. Wet the black tea bag.

  2. Place it over extraction site.

  3. Bite with firm pressure.

  4. Switch out to a new one every 30 minutes.


Please don't accidentally rinse again after you've stopped the bleeding.


It's not bleeding

If the socket isn't bleeding then consider yourself lucky because you don't need to do anything. Just make sure that you don't do it again because it may not turn out as favorably the next time you rinse.


As a reminder, you're also not supposed to spit, drink through a straw, nor smoke. All of those three create the same effect as rinsing. They generate a lot of intraoral pressure that can potentially dislodge the unstable blood clot.


When can I rinse again?

It is safe to rinse your mouth the next day or 24 hours after the tooth extraction. By that time the blood clot should've stabilized enough to withstand the rinsing pressure.


In fact, once you're able to rinse again, you should do it as vigorously and frequently as possible with salt water. There are many benefits to doing so.

  • Decrease inflammation.

  • Prevents food from getting stuck in the extraction hole.

  • Keeps the area clean of food, debris, and bacteria.


Takeaway

Patients who accidentally rinse after their extraction are not uncommon. After all they've had a long day that was both physically and mentally traumatizing. They did have a tooth surgically removed so can you blame them if they forgot in the heat of the moment?


The good news is that you can redeem yourself by correcting your mistakes. Usually by resuming the use of gauze will mitigate the bleeding which may occur from rinsing. You were supposed to have been biting on gauze for about 3 hours but now you have to redo it again.


You're most likely going to have to bite on gauze or tea bags for an additional 3 hours.

Essentially you'd have been putting pressure on the socket for a grand total of 6 hours... But hey, it was your fault and now you have to deal with it!


Just make sure you don't do it again and remember to review all of the tooth extraction aftercare instructions. You're also not supposed to spit or drink through a straw.

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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!

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