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What Happens If Food Gets Stuck In Wisdom Tooth Hole And It Closes?

If food gets stuck in your wisdom tooth hole and it closes, the food will get absorbed but it will most likely result in delayed healing. Contrary to what you may have thought, the food won't dislodge itself but at least you won't have improper socket closure nor a dry socket.


white stuff in wisdom tooth hole
white stuff in wisdom tooth hole

Having food lodged in the third molar socket is not ideal but you will eventually heal.

However, you can expedite the extraction healing process if you follow our tips in how to prevent food from getting stuck in the first place.


Table of Contents:


What happens

If you're paranoid about food getting stuck in your wisdom tooth extraction socket, you should be at ease because you'll still heal uneventfully. Yes, the gums can heal over food but the good news is that the leftover food will get absorbed by the body.


However, leaving food inside of the third molar hole is not ideal so there are consequences such as delayed healing. After all, it is a non-ideal situation but your body can adjust and course correct your blunder.


Food absorption

Stuck food a wisdom tooth socket that has closed will get absorbed by the body. It will not be left as is because food is still food so your body will break it down and absorb it back into the bloodstream.


If you're wondering if that is possible, the answer is yes.


The best way to explain it is by observing how the bone remodels after a wisdom tooth extraction. Despite having a giant hole in the extraction socket, your body will repeat cycles of bone absorption and bone deposition.


Schematic illustration of the normal bone remodeling process
Credit: Liang Chenga, Zhengwei Caia, Jingwen Zhaoa, Fei Wanga, Min Lua, Lianfu Denga, Wenguo Cui

Yes, you read that correctly. There will be bone absorption occurring even though there is a giant hole. The broken down bone gets reabsorbed and then deposited again. Bizzare right?


We can extrapolate that information towards food lodged in the socket. If something as hard as your bone can be absorbed, lodged food can also get absorbed. Your body will simply break it down and take it into the blood and then be redistributed to where nutrients are needed.


Delayed healing

Food left in the wisdom tooth hole will not prevent socket closure but what it will do is cause delayed healing.

  • Socket heals most efficiently if it is clean and free of debris like food and plaque.

  • Socket healing will be delayed if there is stuck food because your body needs to break it down and absorb it. In other words, there are extra steps involved and more work to do!


If you think about it logically, it makes sense. If you get a cut on your arm and there is dirt stuck in there, it certainly won't heal as quickly as a cut without any dirt in it. Same concept applies to your extraction hole.


What won't happen

Worry not, if you can't get the stuck food out of your wisdom tooth hole, it won't make it close improperly nor will you develop a dry socket. Those are the two biggest fears that patients often have about what will happen as a consequence.


However, we do want to be clear that the stuck food may not dislodge itself. That is in case you were hoping it would happen and there are some side effects due to that.


Dislodge itself

The food stuck in the third molar socket will not eventually dislodge itself. It can potentially come out when you're rinsing but it isn't guaranteed. We've seen some mentions online about how it will eventually come out which isn't true... It's more correct to say that it may come out.


blood clot inside socket
blood clot inside socket

You may be curious as to what the direct adverse effects of leaving food stuck in the hole is and you're correct because there are.


Adverse effects:

  • Bad breath. Stuck food will start fermenting and rotting thus producing putrid smell.

  • Bad taste. Can you imagine the taste of the lodged food from your meal a week ago?

These are mostly unpleasant side effects if you ask us.


Improper socket closure

For the record, we've never seen a wisdom tooth hole not close due to stuck food. In fact, to this date we haven't had a single patient who we removed their wisdom teeth that still has the socket open. Everyone has healed uneventfully.


What we're trying to say is that even if you can't get the food out, the gums will still heal over and close up the gums.


With that being said, the only time where you would have a non-closing extraction socket would be MRONJ or BRONJ. They affect the healing of the socket or rather, the socket does not heal after the extraction if you're taking certain medications.


Conditions where the socket does not close:

  • MRONJ (medication-related osteonecrosis of the jaw). Overall umbrella term which includes BRONJ. Essentially the jaw bone will not heal after an extraction!

  • BRONJ (bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw). Specifically refers to bisphosphonates directly causing the non-healing bone of the jaw after an extraction.


Both of these two conditions where the socket will not heal properly are induced by some type of medication that you may be taking. If you're at risk for either of these two conditions you should discuss with your dentist before getting the extractions.


Dry socket

Food stuck inside of your wisdom tooth socket will not cause a dry socket because that condition is biologically induced. External mechanical stimuli will not result in a dry socket and that is why drinking through a straw or spitting will not cause it either. That means leftover food that you can't get out will also not cause it.


dry socket
dry socket

Ultimately, you do not need to worry about ending up with this painful dental condition just because you can't get the food out of the hole.


How to prevent food getting stuck

There are many ways to prevent food from becoming lodged in there and also ways to get it out. Try as many of these tips as possible to see what works for your situation.

  • Salt water rinse. Rinse very vigorously with salt water after every meal.

  • Plastic syringe. Your dentist may have given you a wisdom tooth syringe to irrigate and flush out the socket. Use it if you have it.

  • Water flosser. A pressurized water flosser is even better than the syringe.

  • Cotton tip. Gently wipe away food or excess with this.

  • Brushing gently. If the food is near the surface of the socket opening, you may be able to brush it out.

  • Avoid small hard foods. These types of food are the most prone to getting stuck. Examples would be seeds, popcorn, and nuts.



When to stop worrying

You can stop worrying about food getting stuck in your wisdom teeth holes after about 1-2 weeks. That time period is when the socket is the largest and consequently the most prone to getting food lodged in there.


However, the risk of food getting into the hole will still be present until the socket completely closes. It's just that the chances of it occurring decreases with each day of healing!


When wisdom tooth hole closes

The extraction socket for your third molars will take about 4-6 weeks for it to completely close. Depending on your health status and presence of any comorbidities, your healing may be delayed if you have other health problems.


closing wisdom tooth hole getting smaller
closing wisdom tooth hole getting smaller

Yes, that is a long time for the socket to heal but as long as you follow the surgical aftercare instructions, most people typically stop worrying about it after about a week or two.


When to see dentist

Leftover food in your wisdom tooth extraction hole is not a cause for concern. Although there may be other types of complications that may occur during the healing process which would warrant a dentist visit.


Signs of complication:

  • Pus coming out of the socket. Presence of purulence is a tell-tale sign of an infection.

  • Bad tasting drainage from wisdom tooth hole. Another indication of an infection.

  • Severe pain after about 4-5 days. This is a sign of a dry socket.

  • Non-stop bleeding. If your extraction site hemorrhaging without any signs of stopping, that is a medical emergency. Hopefully you've been using gauze properly.


Takeaway

It's not an issue if food happens to get stuck in the wisdom tooth hole and it closes over. The trapped food particles will simply get broken down by the body and then get absorbed.


Although you may experience slower healing with the socket closure if you leave the food in there. Your body has to do additional work to remove that food and that takes time.

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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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