To Use A Mouthwash Or Not After Wisdom Tooth Removal?

After taking your wisdom teeth out there is giant gaping hole in the gums and you should NOT use mouthwash immediately afterwards. You need to wait at least a day and in addition to that, there are certain rinses that are recommended over others.


This article will explore why there is a waiting period to use a mouthwash. Then we'll also go over which mouthwashes are the best to use after wisdom tooth removal.



Table of Contents:



When can I use mouthwash after wisdom tooth extraction?

You must abstain from using any type of mouthwash on the day of having your wisdom teeth removed. In fact, it goes beyond using mouthwash because you're not suppose to rinse your mouth with any type of liquid on that first day.


However, it is safe to resume using mouthwash and various other mouth rinses the day after the extraction. There are two primary reasons for why you need to wait at least a day before you can use mouthwash or rather rinse your mouth.


The blood clot is not stable during the first 24 hours

It takes approximately 24 hours for the blood clot to fully form and stabilize after removing your wisdom teeth. That means that on the day of the procedure, the clot is NOT stable and can become easily dislodged if you rinse just a little bit too vigorously.


wisdom tooth hole with no blood clot
wisdom tooth hole with no blood clot

The consequences of a dislodged blood clot is persistent bleeding from the extraction socket. That is actually one of the most common reasons as to why people have wisdom teeth bleeding that won't stop. They were using mouthwash and spitting so they kept disturbing the blood clot by preventing it from stabilizing.


Therefore it is of utmost importance to not use any form of mouth rinsing in order to not disturb the blood clot and allow it time to stabilize. It takes approximately 24 hours but it is usually stable enough the next morning after the procedure.


Last but not least, contrary to popular belief if you dislodge a blood clot by rinsing too soon you will not develop a dry socket. That condition is incredibly painful but fortunately, it is not a physical process but rather a biological one. Therefore, physically disturbing the clot will not result in a dry socket. Smoking does increase the chances of it though!



Very painful to rinse immediately after an extraction due to no healing yet

If you try to rinse on the day of the extraction, it will be incredibly painful because your body has not had any time to heal yet. Immediately after the procedure is when the socket and gums are the most traumatized. Rinsing during that time will be aggravating it at the peak of its pain.


upper wisdom tooth hole immediately after extraction
upper wisdom tooth hole immediately after extraction

Your body doesn't start to heal until you are resting, in other words it is not until you're asleep. It is not until the next day when you wake up that your body has had a chance to heal the wisdom tooth hole. It should've at least healed enough the next day that the rinsing won't be too catastrophic. It is safe enough to use a mouthwash the next day because the pain will have lessened enough by then.



Reasons for using mouthwash after an extraction

In case you were wondering about whether you should just skip using a rinse altogether so that you don't have to worry about these rules, you would be sorely mistaken. It is in fact very important to use a rinse after an extraction because it prevents food from getting stuck in the wisdom tooth hole.


If food gets stuck it may cause discomfort, pain, and even bad breath. Think about it, if you have food that has been stuck in there for days it will have had plenty of time for it to ferment. If you've ever smelled fermented food it is not pleasant. Thus, you don't want the same thing to happen to you so you should keep it clean.


In addition to the foul odor, stuck food will delay the healing process. Your body will have to work around the stuck food during the healing and that just makes it less effective and efficient for recovering.


This is why we recommend rinsing very vigorously when you're able to so that you can rinse out any food that may be trapped. An alternative but highly effective way to get food out of the hole is by using a water flosser. That device squirts highly pressurized water that can flush everything out.




Is there an exception for a regular tooth extraction and using mouthwash?

The same rules for when to use a mouthwash also applies to regular teeth extractions. This means that there is no difference in what you should do after an extraction whether it be a regular tooth or a wisdom tooth.


In both instances, you should abstain from using mouthwash for the first 24 hours and wait until the next day before you can use it.


The reason why there is no exception and the rules remain the same is because an extraction socket is an extraction socket. A wisdom tooth hole is not special nor is it any different from any other extraction hole. The only difference is where the hole is located. Since the wisdom teeth are the back most teeth in your mouth, the location of the hole would simply just be at the back of your mouth.


Aside from the location, the way the extraction socket heals over time remains absolutely the same. The recovering and healing process are identical, thus the principles remain the same.



Which mouthwashes should you use for extractions?

Not all mouthwashes are created equal because there are some that you should avoid if you've had a wisdom tooth removed or any other tooth for that matter. The mouthwashes that you can and should use are the gentle ones which are non-acidic. The rinses which you should avoid are the acidic ones that burn.


Recommended mouthwashes

The best mouthwash to use after wisdom teeth removal is a simple salt water rinse because it is the most gentle. It is easy to make and everyone has the ingredients at home. It won't burn or cause you pain if you rinse with it. The extraction hole hurts enough as it is, you don't want to aggravate it by using an acidic or alcoholic rinse.


However, if you prefer to use a different one any rinse that is gentle, non-acidic, and non-burning are permitted.

  • Plain water. If you don't want to use salt, you can simply use plain water.

  • Coconut oil pulling. Coconut oil and other oils have a neutral to basic pH so it won't burn the wisdom tooth hole.

  • Non-alcoholic mouthwash. The alcoholic rinses will burn even if you don't have an extraction socket. Now imagine using it on an open wisdom tooth hole! Thus, choose a non-alcoholic mouthwash because that will be more gentle.


Non-recommended mouthwashes

You should definitely avoid rinses that are acidic or give off a burning sensation when you use it. The reason is simply because it is painful to use them. Why would you want to intentionally cause yourself pain when the extraction socket hurts enough as it is.


List of mouthwashes to avoid after removing your wisdom teeth:

  • Hydrogen peroxide. This rinse is very acidic because it is meant to kill bacteria. It is unnecessary to be perpetually disinfecting the socket because you're most likely taking pill antibiotics.

  • Listerine. The regular one with alcohol should be avoided.


We listed Listerine on there since it is the most common but it applies to any branded mouthwash that has alcohol in it. Use your judgement as to which one is okay or not. If the mouthwash burns when you don't have an extraction, it will burn more if you have an open wound!


That should be the guideline for which you should use for determining whether a mouthwash is safe to use after having your wisdom tooth removed.

  • If it burns, avoid it.

  • If it doesn't burn, you may use it.




How to use a salt water rinse for wisdom teeth extractions

For wisdom tooth extractions using a salt water rinse is the best mouthwash that you can use. It is the most gentle and is the least likely to hurt to you. In addition to that, it will decrease bleeding, inflammation, and bacteria.


Here is how to make a salt water rinse:

  1. 4 oz of tap water - add water to a cup.

  2. 1 teaspoon of salt - add salt to water but make sure it is saturated. This is when you can see some excess salt at the bottom of the cup.

  3. Stir mixture - lightly stir the solution so that the salt and water come together.

  4. Rinse vigorously for 1 minute - swish and gargle the salt water your for at least a minute but you may do it for longer.

  5. Spit out. Make sure you spit out the solution because you don't want to swallow all of that salt along with food and bacteria. The extra salt is bad for high blood pressure.




In case you needed more convincing, here are some additional benefits of rinsing with a saline solution:

  • Removes food particles from wisdom tooth hole

  • Eliminates plaque on teeth

  • Reduces gingival inflammation

  • Minimizes gingival bleeding

  • Fights halitosis - bad breath

  • Creates an inhospitable bacterial environment

  • Buffers mouth acidity

  • Decreases chances of cavities

  • Promotes wound healing




Other best practices for wisdom teeth aftercare

Waiting until the next day to use a mouthwash is one of the things that you should do for taking care of that wisdom tooth hole. However, there are a lot of other instructions which you should follow as aftercare. They can only help and will assist in promoting wound healing.


Post-operative care for wisdom teeth extractions:

  • No rinsing or spitting on the day of.

  • Do not drink through a straw on the first day.

  • No smoking for three days.

  • Avoid small hard foods that can get stuck in the hole.

  • Soft foods for the first couple of days.

  • Avoid spicy and acidic foods.

  • Do bite down on gauze for the first 2-3 hours after the procedure.

  • No exercising for the first day.


If you're able to follow this guideline, you will be doing the most that you can do to assist with the healing process. If you don't follow it then you may be delaying the healing process. The consequence for that is having the hole in your gums close a lot slower. That is simply just an additional inconvenience for you.




Complications to look out for

You can be doing everything right in regards to using a mouthwash after having the wisdom teeth out but there is still a possibility for complications. Sometimes it may simply be out of your control but here are three possible complications.


If you experience any of the above three conditions, you must contact your dentist immediately because that requires prompt attention. You should not try to address these with whatever home remedy that you may find online. The safest thing to do is to have it professionally treated.



Dry socket from wisdom tooth extraction

Unfortunately you can get a dry socket after getting the wisdom teeth out. It is not a physical nor mechanical process so even if you spit, rinse, or drink through a straw it shouldn't give you this condition.


This condition is purely biological and honestly, researchers aren't exactly sure what is the exact cause of it. There are many theories as to how it happens but nothing has been concretely proven as of yet.


dry socket

What we do know is that if you smoke, it greatly increases the chances of you getting it. Thus it would be in your best interested to hold off on the cigarettes for as long as possible.


Infection after an extraction

Getting rid of the third molar should get rid of the infection but sometimes it can return. Your dentist may or may not have given you antibiotics afterwards but even then it can still get infected.


It may simply be out of your control if it does happen. You will know if you have it, if you're having increasing levels of pain or you notice the presence of pus. Purulence is a white fluid so if you notice white stuff coming out, it is most likely infected. However if you notice red then that is simply blood and it is normal for it to ooze slightly.


Non-stop bleeding

A common complication is persistent bleeding that won't stop. The most common cause is if the patient does not follow the post-operative care guidelines.

  • They were rinsing.

  • They were spitting out blood.

  • They were trying to drink through a straw.

  • Did not bite down on gauze for the recommended time interval.


Those four are the most common causes of persistent bleeding. If you were doing either of them, chances are that is what is causing the extraction socket to keep bleeding. As long as you adhere to the guidelines, the bleeding should stop.


However, there are cases were the bleeding may not stop due to pre-existing health conditions such as a bleeding disorder or you were taking a blood thinner. If that is the case, you should go back to your dentist immediately.



Takeaway

You can use mouthwash the day after you have your wisdom teeth removed because that is when the blood clot has stabilized enough. You absolutely should not use any type of mouthwash on the day of the procedure because you can potentially disturb and dislodge the clot, which results in continued bleeding.


Therefore it is safe to rinse your mouth on any day after the first day. This means that you can use mouthwash on the fourth day afterwards or even the third day! Just as long as you do not rinse on the first day.


Even though the first day is forbidden, every day afterwards you are highly encouraged to rinse very vigorously after meals. The vigorous rinsing will prevent food and other small particles from getting stuck int he wisdom tooth hole. Having food stuck in there could be painful and may also cause a malodor, which all contribute to delayed healing.


The main takeaway is to not rinse on the day of but rinse a lot on the days following. If you have any further questions, please consult with your own dentist since they're the ones that performed the procedure so they know what condition your mouth is in.

David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

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!