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Pain After Irrigating Wisdom Teeth, Is That Normal?

If you're having pain after irrigating your wisdom teeth, it could mean that you're doing it too soon because you should wait 72 hours. You should not be disturbing the extraction socket within the first 3 days and that includes irrigating with a plastic syringe.


Irrigating wisdom tooth hole demonstration
Irrigating socket demonstration

However, if you're experiencing mild discomfort while irrigating the wisdom tooth hole after 72 hours that is still considered normal. The pain or discomfort should gradually decrease with each passing day.


Although if you experience excruciating pain or pain that progressively worsens, while irrigating then that is not normal. You may have a potential complication like a dry socket.


Table of Contents:


No irrigation for 72 hours

Irrigating the wisdom teeth holes during the first 72 hours after the extraction will be painful and that is one of the reasons why you shouldn't do it. The second but more important reason is that you don't want to disturb the blood clot which is forming in the socket by flushing it with water.


Consequences of irrigating within 72 hours:

  • Post-surgical pain from wisdom teeth extractions will peak within 48-72 hours.

  • Irrigation can dislodge the forming blood clot if done within 72 hours.


Most painful during 48-72 hours

After an extraction such as removing your wisdom tooth, pain is to be expected after the surgery. On average, the pain will peak within 48-72 hours and then gradually lessen with each passing day after that. If you're trying to flush out the socket during this time, you're just asking for pain so don't do it.


post-tooth extraction pain distribution - left skewed bell curve

That is essentially how long the worst of the post-extraction pain should last. Therefore, it would be normal for you to experience pain or discomfort if you try to irrigate the wisdom teeth holes during this period of time.


Dislodge blood clot

Our primary concern with using a syringe to irrigate the wisdom teeth sockets is its potential to dislodge the maturing blood clot. It takes time for the clot to stabilize and the first 48-72 hours is when it's most vulnerable.


third molar socket trying to form blood clot
third molar socket trying to form blood clot

Excessive pressure directed into the tooth hole can disturb the clot and even dislodge it so you shouldn't irrigate it. The consequence of a missing blood clot will be persistent wisdom teeth bleeding.


This is also why your dentist advises you to not rinse, spit, or drink through a straw right after the extraction. All three of those actions create a lot of intraoral pressure that can dislodge the blood clot which is forming. Now you can add syringe irrigation to that list of aftercare instructions.


When irrigation pain is normal

You are permitted to begin irrigating the wisdom teeth sockets after 72 hours and mild pain or discomfort is to be expected at first. The sensation is new to you and the surgical site is still healing so that is normal.


However, the discomfort should gradually decrease with each day of irrigation because you'll start getting used to it. The extraction hole will also be healing and closing so that aids in the decrease of discomfort.


Wisdom tooth hole size diagram week by week
Wisdom tooth hole size diagram week by week

How to irrigate with syringe

  1. Fill the syringe with water.

  2. Aim it directly into the extraction socket.

  3. Irrigate with pulsatile pressure, not a constant stream!

  4. Repeat steps #1-3 if you don't get the lodged food out.


The one tip that we wish to give is to use pulsatile water pressure rather than a constant stream if you're trying to get food out of the hole.



How long to use it for

You should be using the syringe for at least a week because that is when food is most prone to getting stuck in the wisdom tooth hole. However, you can continue using it as needed until the socket completely closes.


Most people usually stop worrying about food getting stuck in the hole after about 1-2 weeks. If you don't experience any stuck food, you can forego the usage of the plastic syringe.


How often to use it

At the very least you should use the syringe once a day at nighttime before bed. You want your mouth to be clean prior to sleeping. Although if you find yourself getting a lot of food stuck in the socket after each meal, you can use it after every meal.


When irrigation pain is abnormal

Irrigation after wisdom teeth is considered abnormal when you have increasing or worsening pain with each passing day. That is an indication of a complication and it could mean that you're developing a dry socket.


A dry socket is a painful dental condition where the blood clot fails to develop in the extraction socket. A tell-tale sign is excruciating pain about 24-96 hours after an extraction.


Can irrigation cause a dry socket?

Despite the definition of a dry socket being a lack of a blood clot, dislodgement of the clot from irrigation will not cause it. Studies have shown that the condition is biologically induced and not mechanically induced.


That is why dislodging the clot by drinking through a straw does not cause it. The same concept can be applied to syringe irrigation. Therefore, if you develop this painful dental condition, it certainly wasn't from you irrigating improperly.


Takeaway

Pain from irrigating wisdom teeth holes is normal if you do it during the first 72 hours but that is why you're not supposed to do it. You're inducing unnecessary pain but most importantly, you can also potentially dislodge the blood clot which will lead to wisdom teeth bleeding.


It is safe to irrigate the extraction sockets after 72 hours but it may be uncomfortable at first. Although the discomfort should lessen with each passing day as you get used to it and the gums heal.


However, if you experience increasing amounts of pain, you may have a complication! In that case, you should definitely contact your dentist for a follow up appointment.

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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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