You should be using the syringe for at least a week after wisdom teeth extraction and for as long as it takes for the socket to close. However, we don't recommend using it within the first 72 hours after having the teeth removed.
We'll review all of the dos and don'ts with using a syringe in irrigating the wisdom tooth hole. You'll know exactly what you need to do and why you should do such and such after this.
Table of Contents:
When to start using it
Our recommendation is to START using the syringe to irrigate the wisdom tooth hole 72 hours after your extraction. You don't want to use it before the 72 hours because it can disturb the blood clot and it'll also be painful.
Consequences of using syringe before 72 hours:
Blood clot disturbance. The blood clot for the extraction socket takes time to form, stabilize, and mature. If you irrigate the wisdom tooth hole before it is stabilized, the water pressure can potentially dislodge the clot. If that happens you'll start bleeding.
Can be painful. Pain after an extraction typically peaks within 48-72 hours. During this time you don't want to flush out the socket because it can be really painful.
It should be more comfortable for you to irrigate the extraction socket after 72 hours have past. The chances of you dislodging the clot will also have drastically decreased after that time. In other words it'll be safe for you to use it after the 3rd day.
How long to use it for
You should be using the syringe to flush out the wisdom tooth socket for at least 1 week after your surgery. Although you can use it for as long as you need such as until the gums of the third molar hole completely closes.
Reasonings for our recommendations:
Food is most likely to get stuck in the socket during the first week post-surgery.
Food and other debris can still get stuck in the wisdom tooth hole until it fully closes. It's just that it is much less likely to occur once the first week passes.
The socket hole gets smaller and smaller with each day of healing. Most people can usually stop worrying about food getting lodged in the socket after about 1-2 weeks. We typically don't get complaints from our patients about this condition after that time frame.
How often should I use the syringe?
The syringe should be used at least once a day before bedtime to irrigate the third molar socket to rid it of any stuck food or plaque. If you're busy and don't have a lot of time, this would be the simplest and easiest course of action.
However, if you feel that you're getting food stuck in the hole after every meal, you can actually use the syringe as often as you need. If that situation sounds like you, you could be using the irrigating plastic syringe after every meal.
There is absolutely no harm in keeping your mouth extra clean.
Purpose of syringe irrigation
The purpose for using a syringe after wisdom teeth removal is to keep the surgical site clean and promote healing. It is a part of the aftercare protocol and if you don't do it, there will be consequences.
Consequences of not using the syringe:
Food getting stuck in the wisdom tooth hole. After your tooth is removed, there will be a hole in the socket which is prone to getting food stuck in it. The syringe helps to flush out food, plaque, and other debris that may get caught inside of it.
Delayed healing. If you leave food or other foreign substances stuck inside of the socket, it will delay healing. Your body is trying to close the hole but imagine the difficulty it faces when it has to work around foreign objects inside the hole.
Foul odor or taste. Leaving food in the third molar hole for an entire week will cause it to produce a bad smell and taste. Essentially what is happening is that the food is fermenting.
In summary, frequent usage of the irrigating syringe will accelerate your healing and minimize the discomfort that you may feel.
How to use syringe for wisdom teeth
The instructions are simple, all you need is the syringe and a cup of water.
How to use it:
Fill the syringe with water.
Aim it directly into the extraction socket.
Irrigate with pulsatile pressure, not a constant stream!
Repeat steps #1-3 if you don't get the lodged food out.
Pulsatile water pressure is more effective than using a constant stream of water. That is a tip that a lot of people often don't realize about.
Alternatives to a syringe
If you were never given a plastic syringe to use by your dentist, there are alternatives that can provide the same benefits.
Salt water rinse. As a matter of fact, most dentists don't give a syringe for irrigation. Usually vigorous rinsing with salt water is more than adequate in reducing inflammation and preventing food from getting stuck in the hole.
Water flosser. The syringe works pretty well but a water flosser is even more effective at getting food out of the socket. The flosser has multiple power settings and can eject a much more powerful pressurized stream of water than what the syringe can do.
In our professional opinion, if you have a water flosser you should skip the plastic syringe. It's a much more effective product from all angles. The only downside would be the cost if you were trying to purchase one.
Ultimately, you should be using the syringe after wisdom teeth for as long as you need because food will get stuck in the socket. Our recommendation is to use it for at least one week and then switch to an as needed basis after that. Although you should keep in mind that we recommend against using the syringe during the first 72 hours or so.