Getting a tooth or multiple teeth extracted can be a lot on our mouths. Thankfully, healing in the mouth starts very quickly. When I have a patient getting a tooth extracted, I will go over post-op instructions with them, including how long after tooth extraction they can use a straw.
You can use a straw after three days post tooth extraction. However, waiting at least one week is best. The suction causes negative pressure in the mouth, which can lead to the blood clot becoming loose and cause bleeding and a dry socket which is painful and prolongs the healing period.
Read on to learn more about what can happen if you use a straw too soon after tooth extraction, how to prevent a dry socket, what the signs of a dry socket are, what a dentist will do for the dry socket and other things that are crucial to avoid that can also cause a dry socket.
Why do you need to wait at least three days to use a straw after tooth extraction?
Using a straw after having a tooth extracted can cause many issues.
We are so adamant that you abstain from using a straw because we don’t want you to be in pain, and we want your healing process to be as quick and straightforward as possible and avoid infections.
When a tooth is taken out, it is pulled from the bone, and the ligaments attached to it are severed. There is an excellent blood supply to the area, making the area extremely vulnerable to the bacteria in the mouth. It makes it easier for the bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
The negative pressure created when sucking on a straw can suck out the blood clot in the socket.
Our immune system plays a critical role in the acute stage of healing following a tooth extraction to prevent infection and a dry socket.
Healing stages of tooth extraction
As soon as the tooth is extracted, blood will fill in the void where the tooth was (the socket). The blood clot holds all the building blocks for forming new bone and connective tissue.
Swelling peaks around 48-72 hours as the body works hard to send more blood cells to the area to work their healing magic and clear away dead tissue cells as healing continues.
Within a week, the clot will be replaced by building cells and collagen fibres, and the first stage of bone starts to rebuild.
It takes about 7 to 10 days for the tissue to cover the wound where the tooth has been taken out and about 3-4 weeks for the soft tissue to heal. However, it takes at least three months for the bone to heal underneath the soft tissue and fill the void the tooth left behind after extraction.
Preserving the blood clot is the top priority
The blood clot protects the bone and nerves and prevents infection.
As I mentioned previously, the cells in the blood clot allow the granulation tissue to form, which will help develop new bone and blood vessels.
Steps to take to preserve the blood clot;
Do not brush the teeth adjacent to the extraction site for a day
You can still brush the rest of the teeth normally, focusing on being slow and gentle. Please don’t use abrasive toothpaste, as the particles can get into the extraction site and irritate the area.
After 24 hours post tooth extraction, salt water rinses can start
I always tell my patients to stay away from mouthwash right after any oral surgery as the ingredients can irritate and impede healing.
Salt water rinses have been proven to be safe, effective, gentle, and promote tissue healing.
However, the ratio of salt to water is critical. I put together a page that gives you the details on how to make the proper salt water rinse for the mouth,
Read now: Salt Water Mouth Rinse Recipe.
You can also put the salt water in a Monoject syringe to help flush the extraction site area. Only use this after 72 hours post-extraction, and it is best for molar extractions.
Take it easy and drink lots of water (not through a straw)
Staying hydrated is so important to promote good healing. Water is not only good for staying hydrated, but as you drink and the water flows over the extraction site, it can help keep the area clear of debris and prevent infection.
Please do not drink carbonated water, as it can damage the blood clot in the extraction site. Still water is best.
Eat soft and nutritious foods
Getting proper nutrition is extremely beneficial to the healing process after having a tooth extracted. Eating soft foods is best as they pose little risk to the healing site.
Even if you do not follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, the foods in the resource I linked below are nutritious and safe to eat after having a tooth extracted!
Use a cold pack intermittently to help bring down swelling. Follow the dentist’s advice for pain management, including medications to be take. They will most likely advise taking ibuprofin and acetominophen.
Things to avoid after tooth extraction that cause negative pressure
Here is a brief list of things that are a definite no-go after having a tooth extracted.
- vigorous rinsing
- drinking hot liquids
- spitting forcefully
- anything involving a suction motion
- eating nuts and seeds, including popcorn
- avoid crunchy, chewy, and hard foods
- avoid all physical activity as it increases blood pressure
- avoid chewing gum
These things should be avoided for at least 72 hours after tooth extraction, but best if avoided for a week.
Dry sockets inhibit proper healing
A dry socket is also called alveolitis and usually occurs 2-4 days after the tooth is extracted.
After extraction, the pain should start to improve after three days, but the pain will worsen continuously after day three with a dry socket.
A dry socket can be felt as a continuous, intense pain. You can often feel a dry socket pain diverging towards the ear and along the jaw, if you have a dry socket. In some rare cases, you can feel the pain near the eye, temple and down the neck. An odour may accompany these symptoms.
It is important to note that a dry socket is sometimes inevitable and can happen for other reasons. The probability of a dry socket increases with tobacco and nicotine products, oral contraceptives, and some medications that can inhibit the body’s ability to heal quickly.
What does the dentist do if you have a dry socket?
The dentist will first inspect the area to confirm a dry socket. Once verified, the dentist will clean it out to ensure no food debris stuck or other objects, such as bone fragments. The dentist may place a surgical absorbable gelatin sponge or a medical paste in the extraction site to help promote healing.
In some cases, iodoform gauze is placed and kept in the socket for a couple of days. The patient returns to the dental office two days later for re-evaluation.
The dentist may take an X-ray to confirm there is not a bone or root fragment present or if there is a more severe infection.
On a positive note, dry sockets are easy to treat, and as the saying goes, “time heals all wounds.” Your body needs time to heal, and you need to be gentle on your body while this is happening. Get lots of rest, drink lots of water, and listen to your body.
If you have any signs of infection, such as excessive swelling and redness, along with fever, chills, or pus from the extraction site, immediately call your dentist.
If your dentist is not available, call your medical doctor. If your medical doctor is not available, go to the emergency at the hospital. Dental infections can get dangerous fast because of the high vascularity of the head and neck and the close proximity to the brain.
I hope you can avoid a dry socket, and I hope you heal well after your extraction!