Staying Minty Fresh After Oral Surgery
Mouthwash can be handy to support your regular oral care routine. Whether you use it to fight bad breath or prevent cavities, there are times when you should use mouthwash and times you shouldn’t. Immediately after having a tooth pulled or following oral surgery is not a good time to use mouthwash.
You may have been told to avoid eating or drinking immediately after a dental appointment, and the same advice applies to oral surgery. But mouthwash is an oral hygiene tool, so is mouthwash an exception? Or are there other oral rinse guidelines you should follow after a tooth extraction?
When Is it OK to Use Mouthwash?
Although mouthwash can help keep your mouth clean, you should not use an oral rinse within the first 24 hours after a tooth extraction or oral surgery. Rinsing your mouth can loosen the healing tissue, dislodging blood clots and exposing surgery sites. Dry socket is a common complication associated with tooth extractions, and it can be severely uncomfortable and increase the risk of infection.
Why Are Teeth Removed?
A tooth extraction is necessary when a tooth is damaged or harms your oral health. Dental problems, including tooth decay and advanced gum disease, are the most common reasons for removing a tooth.
Tooth decay can happen when plaque hardens into dental tartar, trapping a layer of bacteria on your teeth. The bacteria buildup releases acids that deteriorate teeth by creating a hole (cavity). The damage can expand, causing increasing discomfort and potentially leading to infection.
Eventually, the tooth may be too damaged to save with restorative treatment. Removing the tooth can help relieve uncomfortable symptoms of tooth decay. Then, a dentist can replace the missing tooth with a dental implant.
Gum disease is inflammation of the gums, tissue, or bone supporting the teeth. The acids formed by bacteria can attack the gums, weakening tissue. Without treatment, gum disease can advance from gingivitis (minor symptoms) to periodontitis (severe symptoms). Gum disease can cause receding gums, tooth loss, and bone loss.
Gingivitis can be reversed, but periodontitis cannot. Removing a tooth may be necessary if gum disease severely weakens tooth support or if removal benefits treatment.
Additionally, tooth extraction may be necessary if:
- An extra tooth prevents another tooth or teeth from erupting correctly
- A tooth is causing overcrowding or complicating orthodontics treatment
- A medical treatment (such as radiation therapy) requires tooth removal
How Can Mouthwash Help?
How mouthwash helps depends on the ingredients, as there’s more than 1 type of oral rinse. Antiseptic ingredients like alcohol, menthol, and eucalyptol help destroy bacteria by rinsing hard-to-reach places or tight crevices. However, some ingredients can cause a stinging sensation.
Many types of mouthwash today are alcohol-free, due to increased risks associated with use—including dry mouth and mouth irritation.
Some oral rinses contain fluoride, a mineral beneficial for preventing bacteria growth and promoting tooth enamel (the protective outer layer of teeth). Mouthwash with fluoride, when used correctly, can help improve tooth durability and plaque resistance.
Mouthwash doesn’t replace daily brushing and flossing. But, it can help prevent plaque and gingivitis when included in your oral hygiene routine.
What to Do After a Tooth Extraction
After tooth extraction, your dentist or oral surgeon will provide instructions about what you should do. Here are some aftercare tips you’re likely to hear:
- Brush and floss your teeth, but stay away from the extraction site. Use less water to avoid flooding the wound, potentially rinsing away a blood clot.
- Take prescribed medication exactly as your dentist, oral surgeon, or pharmacist has instructed.
- Call your dentist or oral surgeon if your comfort does not improve within 48 hours. Also, don’t hesitate to call if you have other questions or concerns!
- Rest and keep your head elevated. Rest supports faster recovery and slows blood circulation, helping to slow bleeding.
- Eat soft foods. Be gentle when chewing near the extraction site. Drink water or brush your teeth after eating to help remove leftover food or bacteria.
What to Avoid After a Tooth Extraction
Your dentist may include some tips about what to avoid after a tooth extraction, including:
- Hot liquids (coffee, tea, soup, etc.). Hot liquids can increase blood flow, possibly causing bleeding to start again. Let liquids cool before consuming.
- Chewing or sucking on the gauze or extraction site. Overstimulating the wound site can irritate the area or dislodge a clot.
- Rinsing your mouth within the first 24 hours. However, your dentist may recommend using an antibacterial or salt water rinse after 24 hours.
How to Make a Saltwater Rinse
Saltwater rinses can have disinfectant properties. As a result, the mixture may be a safer alternative when you want an oral rinse, but you can’t use mouthwash. You can use the saltwater mixture before or after brushing your teeth—but brushing after gargling can help remove the salty aftertaste.
- Use warm water, but be careful to prepare a comfortable temperature. Warmth can promote healing and help the salt dissolve into the water.
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of water. The solution will taste salty! If the taste is too uncomfortable or you experience stinging, decrease the salt to half a teaspoon.
- Gargle gently and avoid swishing roughly or sucking. Continue for 15–20 seconds. After rinsing, carefully empty your mouth over a sink without spitting. Then, discard leftover saltwater to avoid contamination.
Ask Your Dentist for More Tips
Your dentist can support your recovery after tooth extraction or wisdom tooth removal. At Shawnessy Dental, we’re passionate about providing world-class comprehensive dental care. Our team works hard to help you feel confident about your smile.
Call your dentist when you have questions about recovery after a dental procedure or book an appointment to discuss your dental care.