Immediately after your wisdom tooth extraction and before you can go home, your dentist gives the dos and don’ts. You’re not allowed to rinse, spit, and drink through a straw. The first two you may get but why no straws? What can possibly happen if you drink through a straw?
When can I use a straw after wisdom teeth extraction?
The general consensus among dentists is to wait 24 hours after removing your wisdom teeth 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 and we haven’t had any complications thus far.
In our opinion, the suggestion of waiting until the morning after simplifies the instructions. If we tell you to wait 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 through a straw again.
Reason for not using a straw
The purpose of abstaining from the use of a straw after having your wisdom tooth taken out is to prevent persistent bleeding. Using a straw can disturb the blood clot that is trying to stabilize inside of the wisdom tooth hole. Drinking through one can create a lot of suction pressure that may dislodge the clot.
Immediately after the extraction, the wisdom tooth socket will be actively bleeding and oozing. Your body will be trying its best to form a blood clot to staunch the bleeding. Within the first few hours a temporary platelet plug gets formed but it isn’t very stable.
This unstable platelet plug can become dislodged if there is any type of pressure in the mouth. Rinsing, spitting, and drinking through a straw are three activities which can generate a lot of pressure in the mouth.
In other words, all three of them have the potential to dislodge the unstable blood clot. That means if you drink through a straw, you may risk continued bleeding from the wisdom tooth extraction.
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 then, the unstable platelet plug will get replaced by the more stable fibrin plug. Once that forms you don’t have to worry about it becoming dislodged with pressure.
What happens if I accidentally used a straw after wisdom teeth extraction?
If you forgot and accidentally drank through a straw after the wisdom tooth extraction, you’d probably start bleeding right away. The suction pressure from drinking through the straw can dislodge the blood clot that is trying to form. If it comes out you’ll start oozing again.
However, you may be lucky and the clot doesn’t come out. If that is the case then you don’t have to do anything about it but you should definitely not use a straw again. It is safer to drink directly from a cup instead.
What to do if it bleeds again?
If you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones and wisdom tooth hole does start bleeding again, you’ll need to repeat the process over again. The first thing you want to do is to resume biting on gauze to stop the bleeding.
How to use gauze to stop the bleeding:
- Take 2 pieces of gauze.
- Fold them in half twice into a square.
- Place gauze over wisdom tooth hole.
- Bite with firm pressure.
- Remove gauze after 30 minutes.
- Repeat steps #1-5 until it stops bleeding.
Note: If you’re getting multiple wisdom teeth taken out at once, you may need to use more than 2 pieces of gauze. You should try 3-4 pieces for each side if you do. The reason being when you’re missing the upper and lower tooth, the gauze isn’t big enough with just 2 pieces.
Using gauze to stop bleeding after a wisdom 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 because you accidentally used a straw, you can of course bite with 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 a false claim because research studies have shown otherwise.
In a randomized controlled trial, half of the subjects used a straw after having their wisdom teeth removed. The other half did not and served as a control group.
- 15% of those who used a straw had a dry socket.
- 15% of those who did not use a straw also had a dry socket.
The conclusion of the study was that using a straw after wisdom teeth extraction had no correlation with getting a dry socket. It seems like the incidence were the same regardless of whether or not a straw was used.
Nonetheless, the study reiterated that a dry socket is a biological process and not a mechanical one. This means that pressure from using straws, rinsing, and spitting have no effect on developing a dry socket. That is the good news but the bad news is that you can still get persistent bleeding.
You shouldn’t drink through a straw on the same day of having your wisdom teeth taken out. A better time to do it would be the next day or 24 hours later. It should be safe for you to resume drinking through it then.
The consequence of using a straw too soon may result upend your efforts in getting the socket to stop bleeding. The suction pressure from drinking through a straw can dislodge the unstable blood clot. Unfortunately it takes about 12-24 hours for the clot to stabilize enough before it can withstand any type of intraoral pressure.
If there is any consolation, at least using straws won’t cause a dry socket. That is good for you because that condition can be incredibly painful.
Anyway, before we end this article… Dr Chen just wants to remind you that after a wisdom tooth extraction you should remember these things:
- No Rinsing
- No Spitting
- No Drinking through a straw
- No smoking for a week
We wish you the best of luck in your recovery! It won’t be as bad as you think. Although just to be safe, you should review all of the dos and don’ts of wisdom teeth removal aftercare.