Updated: Oct 14
Immediately after having your wisdom teeth removed, there will be a hole where the tooth use to be and that can be a potential food trap. It may take as long as 4-8 weeks for the hole to completely close so you should try your best to not get any food stuck in there. Luckily for you, we've quite a few tips to help you get the food out of the hole.
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7 tips to remove food stuck in wisdom tooth hole
These are all tips that you can use at home to try to remove any food particles that may be lodged in the extraction socket. You don't have to use just one technique, you can use all of them to help you remove the food and clean out the wisdom tooth holes. If one method doesn't work, just try the next one!
Don't forget that for the first 24 hours after the surgery, you should try your best to not disturb the socket while it is healing and that includes trying to get food out of the hole. So for the first 24 hours do not use any rinses nor should you try to flush out the hole because you may dislodge the blood clot. If you remove the blood clot, you will continue to bleed and that is not what we want. After 24 hours passes, you can try to use one of the 7 tips to help get any food that may be stuck out of the hole.
Salt water rinse
The best way to remove food stuck in the wisdom tooth hole is to rinse vigorously with salt water after every meal. This is because salt is anti-inflammatory and is at a neutral pH so it won't burn the wound socket. If you remember to rinse with salt water every time after you eat, you shouldn't be getting any food stuck in the hole at all.
Here is how to use a salt water rinse:
Add 1 teaspoon of salt to 8 oz of water.
Stir the mixture until it incorporates.
Swish the salt water vigorously in your mouth for up to 2 minutes.
Spit out and repeat as many times as needed.
Prescription mouth rinse
Your dentist may have given you a prescription mouth rinse, chlorhexidine, that you can use twice a day, once at night and once in the morning. The rinsing action will help remove any food debris in the mouth but the mouth rinse also has an antibacterial property that helps the gums heal faster. The faster your gums can heal, the faster the hole will close up and you won't get any food stuck in there anymore.
How to use chlorhexidine rinse:
Pour 15 ml into a measuring cup.
Rinse vigorously for 1-2 minutes.
Spit it out and don't eat or drink for an hour.
Natural mouth rinses
If you don't want to use a prescription rinse, there are plenty of natural mouth rinse options available that you can use instead which will actually give a similar effect. These natural rinses are all home remedies that you can purchase at your local supermarkets. They all have innate antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that will aid in the healing of the extraction socket.
How to use a natural mouth rinse:
Swish and gargle with the rinse for 5-15 minutes
Spit out and repeat as many times as necessary
Yes, that is the only downside to using a natural mouth rinse, it just requires more time for it to give you the same effectiveness. If you rinse with Listerine, it would only require 30 seconds of rinsing.
Plastic syringe or pipette irrigator
Some dental offices give you a plastic syringe for you to flush the wisdom tooth hole out. You're suppose to use it every time after you have any solid foods.
How to use a plastic syringe irrigator:
Fill the syringe up with warm water
Aim the syringe into each wisdom tooth hole and flush it out
Repeat for each extraction socket
Our LIC dentists don't typically give out plastic syringes because we believe that rinsing with salt water vigorously is usually more than sufficient but if you wanted something that can actively flush out a socket, the water flosser is a far superior option.
A water flosser or a WaterPik is a high pressure intraoral irrigator that is meant as a replacement for flossing but in this case, you can use it to remove food that may be stuck in the wisdom teeth holes. This is a wonderful appliance to use as an adjunct to brushing and it has a variety of uses as well. If you don't have one, our long island city dentists highly recommend getting one because you can use it to alternate with flossing in case you get lazy!
How to use a water flosser:
Fill up the device with warm water.
Aim the water flosser into the holes.
Press the button to flush out the food.
The water flosser is the best way to clean the wisdom teeth holes without a syringe because it serves the same function. In fact, it is more effective than cleaning the hole with a syringe because it can generate higher water pressure than a manual syringe.
After having the wisdom teeth extracted, people are usually wary about brushing close to the extraction site because it is usually more tender. This leads people to avoid brushing the area but because they are avoiding the area, food will accumulate around the hole and eventually get stuck in it! If you just try to brush as normally as you can, you will be able to prevent a lot of food from falling into the socket.
Just brush like you normally do but when you get to the area where the wisdom teeth use to be, just slow down and brush more gently. It shouldn't cause too much discomfort and you'll be able to prevent a lot more food from getting caught in there.
If you can visually see a piece of food on top of the wisdom tooth hole, you can use a cotton swab to gently wipe it away. The cotton swab is thinner and will give you better access to the where the food may be located. Since the third molars are usually all the way at the back of the mouth, it may be hard for your large and fat fingers to be able to reach back there. This is why it is recommended to use a cotton swab instead of your fingers.
Another reason to use the swab is because it is cleaner than your fingers. Yes, you can wash your hands with soap and water but you might as well try your best to NOT introduce germs into a healing wound! There is no guarantee that your hands are completely germ free.
What happens if you can't get the food out of the wisdom tooth hole?
Two things can happen if food remains trapped for an extended amount of time inside of the hole, it can cause a foul odor and also prolong the healing time. They are not life threatening but they will be more of an annoyance coupled with a bit of discomfort.
If food is stuck in the wisdom tooth hole for days and you can't get it out, the food will begin to ferment and cause a foul odor. This is supported by the fact that a lot of vegetables require anywhere from three days to three months for it to completely ferment. Food that is stuck in the hole in your gum is no different and will begin the fermentation process after the 3 day mark.
Do you recall the last time you smelled fermented or expired food that has been sitting out in the open for a long period of time? It smells rancid doesn't it? So, if you start noticing a foul odor coming from your mouth, it may be food that has been trapped for the past few days!
Prolonged healing time
Your body will heal the fastest when the socket is kept nice and clean because it allows your body to do its job without any interference. If there is food inside of the socket, it will interfere with your body trying to close the hole and that in turn will impede the healing process.
If you get a cut on your arm, you usually clean it and keep it clean so that it can heal well. If you get dirt in it, it will take a longer time to heal. Your mouth is not an exception to this rule.
How can I tell if food is stuck in the hole?
There are three ways to tell if food could be potentially trapped inside of the hole. All three may be accompanied by discomfort.
If you notice a foul odor.
You visually see food inside of the hole.
You're feel discomfort that wasn't there before you had a meal.
Overall, the sensation will feel like something is off and not quite right. It'll feel like something has changed after you ate the food.
How to prevent food from getting stuck in a wisdom tooth hole
Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing as much as possible.
Rinse with salt water vigorously after every meal.
Try chewing more on the side without the extractions.
Avoid eating small, hard, and crunchy foods that can easily get stuck in the hole.
Eat softer foods that are less likely to get lodged in the socket.
How long does it take for the hole to completely close?
It can take as long as 4-6 weeks for the hole to completely close after having a tooth removed. That length of time is only a guideline because some people can heal faster while others can have delayed healing. The healing rate and recovery ability has to do with the individual's personal health.
If you have diabetes and high blood pressure, you may want to expect a more prolonged healing time.
If you are in good health, you can heal up in about 4 weeks or so.
Usually it takes at least 4 weeks for it to be healed if you are in good health. The hole will slowly get smaller and smaller with each passing day. You may not notice it if you look at it every day but if you compare the progress week by week, you'll see the difference.
When should you seek professional help
You should seeking professional help if you notice the extraction site not closing and you have excruciating pain. The pain can feel worse than before you had the infected wisdom tooth taken out. If you are experiencing these two symptoms, you most likely have a dry socket.
A dry socket is when a blood clot fails to develop at the extraction socket and consequently the bone underneath is exposed to the open environment. This is an extremely painful situation and is much worse than simply food getting stuck in the hole. Normally when you get food stuck in the hole, it is actually on top of the blood clot so you only feel some discomfort but not pain.
Contrary to popular belief drinking through a straw while the blood clot is forming in an extraction socket does not cause a dry socket. The reason is because a dry socket is a biological process and not caused by mechanical pressure such as using a straw.
Your dentist should be able to help you attain some pain relief from the dry socket by cleaning out the hole and giving you a medicinal paste to help soothe the pain.
Another situation where you may seek out a dentist is when you're having a foul odor in the socket and you are unable to dislodge the food that is trapped in there. In that case, it is not an emergency but it is recommended that you let your dentist clean out whatever fermenting food is stuck in the hole so that you can feel at ease.
It is not uncommon to get food stuck in the hole that was left behind by your wisdom tooth removal. There are many home remedies which you can use to remove the stuck food but if you are unable to, you can always contact one of our dentists in long island city to give you a helping hand!