You can stop worrying about food getting stuck in the wisdom teeth holes approximately 1-2 weeks after your extraction. That's how long it takes for most people to stop thinking and worrying about it.
However, until the socket completely heals and the gums close over, there will always be a chance that food can get stuck. It's just that the possibility of it happening will decrease as the hole gets progressively smaller.
Table of contents:
When you can stop worrying
The most likely time for food to get stuck in your wisdom tooth socket is the first week after having them removed. That also means that the first week would be the most concerning time for patients as they are recovering.
Reasons the first week is the worse:
Extraction sockets at its largest opening. Immediately after the third molar has been removed is when the hole is at its largest. As you heal, the hole will slowly get smaller. Obviously, the larger the socket hole the more likely food is to get stuck in it.
Inadequate oral hygiene. The surgical sites are typically very tender during the first week or so. Most people are hesitant to brush and floss in the area which contributes to food getting lodged into the socket.
Essentially, you're the most at risk for getting food lodged in your wisdom teeth holes during the first week post-surgery. However, there should be marked improvement after about a week or two when the sockets heal and the hole becomes smaller.
Usually, most people tend to stop worrying about lodged food in their third molar sockets after 1-2 weeks. That's simply based on what we hear and see from our patients. We generally don't get any more complaints about this condition beyond the 2nd week.
How long can food get stuck in extraction sockets
To be clear, food can continue to get stuck in the wisdom tooth hole until the socket completely heals and the hole disappears. For complete gum recovery over the socket, it can take 3-6 weeks depending on your healing speed.
However, we tell you that most people can stop worrying about stuck food after 1-2 weeks because that is when the chances of it happening decreases dramatically. The socket typically has healed enough and the hole is small enough that the occurrence becomes negligible.
Reasons it occurs less often over time:
As the hole gets infinitely smaller, only smaller and smaller foods can get stuck in there.
While the hole is large, practically anything can get stuck in there from small foods to large pieces of rice, pasta, and bread!
Despite us saying that you shouldn't worry about a week or two, you should really think of this condition as on a spectrum rather than a binary outcome.
The larger the hole the bigger the chance of it occurring.
The smaller the hole the less likely of it occurring.
Essentially you shouldn't rule it out from happening until the gums completely close over!
What to do if food gets stuck
If food does get stuck in your wisdom tooth extraction socket, there are ways to get it out. These tips are actually a part of your extraction aftercare.
Salt water rinse. Rinsing vigorously is the first line of defense against food getting suck in the hole. This one simple action is typically enough to not need any other remedies.
Plastic syringe. If your dentist gave you a plastic syringe or pipette to use, you can irrigate the hole with it. The water pressure will flush out all food and foreign bodies.
Water flosser. In our opinion, the water flosser would be the best tool to use if food is really stuck and you can't get it out. This device can shoot a stream of pressurized water to dislodge it from the socket.
Gentle brushing. You may be surprised but sometimes gentle brushing can remove the stuck food especially if it is on the surface of the hole.
Cotton tip. If you see food near the surface of the socket, you can brush it away with a q-tip applicator.
If you're using the plastic syringe or water flosser, a tip to make it more effective is to use pulsatile water pressure. What we mean by that is to squeeze or squirt with the devices in a pulsatile motion in lieu of a constant stream of water.
How to do it:
Move setting to "Massage" for pulsatile water pressure.
Aim water flosser into wisdom tooth hole.
Turn the handle to on.
Start with low pressure setting and increase as needed.
The water pressure into the socket may be a little uncomfortable at first but you'll get used to it. It'll get better with each passing day. If the discomfort is too much with the water flosser, you can use the plastic syringe instead.
What if I can't remove the food?
If you're unable to remove the food after a few days, you can always contact your dentist. They have an air water syringe that can shoot pressurized water into the wisdom tooth hole to flush it out. To be quite honest, that instrument works in the same exact manner as the water flosser.
Consequences of non-removed food
Having food stuck in your extraction socket is definitely not pleasant but the effects aren't as detrimental as you may be imagining. The socket will still close over even if you leave the food despite what you may have been imagining.
Delayed healing. Food lodged in socket can interfere with socket closure.
Foul smell. Imagine food being stuck in the there for 3 days... 7 days... it starts to ferment and smell bad. You may experience bad breath.
Bad taste. Fermenting food in your mouth will have a bad taste as well!
Discomfort. It could be uncomfortable or even painful.
What won't happen:
Dry socket. It is unlikely for the food to result in a dry socket because those two conditions are unrelated. In fact, no one knows how dry sockets even form but it's definitely not from food getting lodged in the hole.
Infection. We have yet to see an infection result from food getting stuck in the socket.
As a general rule of thumb, most people can expect to stop worrying about food getting stuck in their wisdom tooth hole after 1-2 weeks. By that time, enough healing should've occurred and the hole should've closed enough to prevent most food from getting lodged in there.
Although it may still be possible to get food stuck in the socket after that time frame, it becomes much less frequent. If something is lodged in there, you can always try flushing it out with a water flosser. Those are all of the tips from our dentists in Long Island City.