Immediately after your tooth extraction and prior to dismissing you, your dentist gives you a set of instructions. No rinsing, no spitting, and no drinking through a straw. The first two you may get but what’s up with the straw?
Are you going to end up with a tooth infection if you accidentally use a straw? If not then what is the reason for it and when is it safe to use one again?
How long after a tooth extraction can I use a straw again?
The general consensus among dentists is to wait 24 hours after a tooth extraction before using a straw again. That is sound advice which you can’t really argue against.
However as a matter of practicality it is sufficient to just wait until the next morning to use a straw once again. In fact that is what we tell all of our patients after an extraction procedure. We haven’t had any complaints nor complications thus far.
In our opinion, the next morning suggestion simplifies the instructions. If we tell you 24 hours then you have to recall when your appointment was and at what time the tooth came out. It just seems silly to count exactly 24 hours prior to drinking with a straw.
Why wait to use a straw?
The purpose of abstaining from the use of a straw after having your tooth taken out is to prevent bleeding. Using a straw can disturb the blood clot that is forming due to the suction pressure of drinking through it.
Immediately after the extraction, the tooth socket will be actively bleeding. Your body will be fighting hard to form a blood clot to stem the bleeding. Within the first few hours a temporary platelet plug gets formed but it is not very stable.
This unstable platelet plug is prone to becoming dislodged if there is any type of pressure in the mouth. Rinsing, spitting, and drinking through a straw are three such activities which generate a lot of pressure in the mouth.
In other words, they have the potential to dislodge this unstable blood clot. That means if you drink through a straw, you risk continued bleeding from the extraction socket.
However the good news is that if you wait a solid 12-24 hours after the procedure, it should be safe to use a straw again. By that time, the unstable platelet plug gets replaced by a fibrin plug which is more stable. Once that forms you won’t have to worry about it becoming dislodged with intraoral pressure.
What happens if I accidentally drank through a straw after a tooth removal?
If you forgot and accidentally drank through a straw after the tooth extraction, you’d probably start bleeding again. The suction pressure from drinking through the straw can dislodge the blood clot that is forming. Once the clot comes out the socket will start oozing blood again.
Although sometimes you may be lucky and the clot doesn’t come out. If that is the case then you don’t have to do anything but you should definitely throw that straw away. Just drink out of a cup instead.
What should I do if it does bleed?
If you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones and it does start bleeding again, the first thing you need to do is get rid of that straw. The next thing you want to do is to resume biting on gauze again to staunch the bleeding.
How to use gauze to stop the bleeding:
- Take two pieces of gauze.
- Fold them in half twice.
- Place gauze over extraction socket.
- Bite down with firm pressure.
- Remove after 30 minutes.
- Repeat steps #1-5 until it stops bleeding.
Using gauze to stop bleeding after a tooth extraction isn’t limited to the first three hours. You’re actually supposed to use gauze until it stops bleeding completely. If the socket starts bleeding again due to your mistake, you can of course use gauze once more.
Can drinking through a straw cause dry socket?
A common misconception is that using a straw can cause a dry socket (alveolar osteitis). That is absolutely false because research studies have proven otherwise.
In a randomized controlled trial, half of the subjects used a straw after wisdom teeth removal while the other half did not.
- 15% of those who used a straw resulted in a dry socket.
- 15% of those who did not use a straw also ended up with a dry socket.
The conclusion of the study was that using a straw after an extraction had no effect whatsoever on the incidence of getting a dry socket. The study reiterated that a dry socket is a biological process and not due to mechanical disruptions. This means that pressure from using straws, rinsing, and spitting have no correlation with developing a alveolar osteitis.
The good news is that you won’t end up with alveolar osteitis but the bad news is that you can still get persistent bleeding. You still shouldn’t use it!
You shouldn’t drink through a straw on the day of having your tooth removed. However the next day or 24 hours later should be safe for you to resume drinking through it.
The consequence of using a straw too soon may result in persistent bleeding from the socket. The suction from drinking through the straw can dislodge the forming blood clot. Unfortunately it takes about 12-24 hours for the clot to fully stabilize before it can withstand any intraoral pressure.
Nonetheless there is one piece of good news and that is using straws won’t cause a dry socket. Although it is quite saddening that a lot of reputable online sources are still perpetuating the myth that it can cause it.
Anyway, before we end this article… Dr Chen just wants to remind you that after a tooth extraction you should remember these three things:
- No Rinsing
- No Spitting
- No Drinking through a straw
You cannot do any of those three on the day of the procedure. Dr Chen likes to repeat those three things to his patients three times so that they don’t forget! Please go over the rest of the extraction aftercare instructions so you know what not to do.