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Using Listerine After an Extraction

Updated: Oct 30

If you want to rinse with Listerine after a tooth extraction, you should wait at least 48 hours in order to minimize adverse effects from occurring. Rinsing too soon after your surgery can cause unintended side effects.


listerine cool mint

Despite its wonderful antiseptic benefits, Listerine isn't the preferred mouth rinse after an extraction. Most dentists (us included) actually recommend a simple salt water rinse.


Table of Contents:


Waiting will prevent adverse effects

Rinsing with Listerine within 48 hours of an extraction or wisdom teeth removal, can develop undesired side effects. The two most notable adverse effects from rinsing with it can affect clotting and induce pain.


Affects clotting

Rinsing too soon with it will affect the blood clotting process of your tooth socket. It will either prolong the time it takes to clot or dislodge the clot and make you keep bleeding.


extraction socket
extraction socket

Effects on clotting:

  • Impaired clotting. Studies have shown that intaking alcohol can increase the clotting time and decrease the clot firmness. That is from a mere 0.4 pH increase in acidity from neutral. Listerine contains 26.9% alcohol which is very acidic, much more than a beer. The delayed clotting is why you shouldn't drink alcohol after wisdom teeth removal.

  • Dislodged clot. You're not supposed to rinse with any solutions within the first 24 hours after your surgical tooth extraction. Vigorous rinsing may dislodge the blood clot that is trying to stabilize and that will cause you to keep on bleeding.


Therefore, if you want to use it as a mouth rinse, it would be safer to wait until after 48 hours have passed in order to minimize these adverse effects.


It hurts

Due to the high alcohol content in Listerine (21.6% to 26.9%) it will burn when you rinse with it. In fact, the burning sensation will be more intense than usual because you're rinsing with it on an open wound.


extraction socket is an OPEN WOUND
extraction socket is an OPEN WOUND

You're in enough discomfort as it is from the surgery, do you really want to experience additional pain from using this? For this reason, we recommend a more gentle alternative like saline instead, which does not contain any alcohol nor is it acidic.


Note: You can mitigate the discomfort if you use the Zero Alcohol versions of Listerine. However, it'll still give you a slight tingle which is due to the essential oils in the ingredients.


Can it cause a dry socket?

Fortunately, even if you are non-compliant and insist on using Listerine before the 48 hour mark, you won't develop a dry socket. Studies have shown that the development of this condition is due to biological reasons and not mechanical ones.


Ultimately, if you rinse with it, the clot may come out and you'll experience persistent bleeding but what won't happen is a dry socket. The intraoral rinsing pressure is what can potentially dislodge the clot.


Risk factors for dry socket:

  • Smoking. Studies have shown that smokers are 3 times more likely to get it when compared with non-smokers.

  • Traumatic extraction. Difficult extractions increase the incidence.

  • Birth control. Studies have shown that the incidence of alveolar osteitis was significantly higher for those on birth control.

  • Middle of Menstrual cycle. Middle of a menstrual cycle can increase chances of getting it.

  • Had it before. If you've had alveolar osteitis in the past, you're more likely to get it once more.


Salt water rinse is a better alternative

The preferred mouth rinse to use after an extraction is plain salt water. That is the general consensus among dentists and oral surgeons. It is what you should be using for the entire first week after your procedure with the exception of the first 24 hours.


Benefits of saline rinse after an extraction:

  • Gentle. It doesn't cause any discomfort since it isn't alcoholic and doesn't burn.

  • Antiseptic. The salt will reduce inflammation, pain, and bacterial biofilm.

  • Dislodges stuck food. If you have food stuck in your tooth socket or wisdom tooth hole, rinsing with salt water can help remove it.

  • Inexpensive. Salt is readily available and certainly costs less than a brand name mouthwash.


How to make a salt water rinse:

  1. Add a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water.

  2. Stir the saline mixture lightly.

  3. Rinse vigorously for 2 minutes by swishing around.

  4. Spit out and repeat after every meal.


Listerine vs Salt water rinse

If you wait 48 hours after your extraction, you may use Listerine once more but we'll give you reasons as to why salt water is a better choice.


Attributes

Listerine

Salt water

Cost

$$

$

Burning sensation

Yes

No

Antiseptic

Yes

Yes

Dislodges food

Yes

Yes

Affects clotting

Yes

No


In our opinion, rinsing with saline is the clear winner here. In fact, that is precisely what we personally recommend to all of our patients after an extraction or wisdom tooth extraction.


Takeaway

You should definitely not use Listerine within the first 48 hours after your tooth removal because there are side effects. However, after that time period, you may rinse with it if you prefer.


Although the preferred and recommended mouthwash to use after an oral surgery procedure is actually just a simple salt water rinse. It is effective, easy to make, and inexpensive. You really can't go wrong with it.

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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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