Visiting the dentist to have your wisdom tooth removed may be a relatively smooth experience. It’s just that after the tooth extraction, you would notice a large hole in your gum and the bone beneath the gum where the tooth used to be.
In most cases, the hole may be stitched up by your dentist, but in the few cases where stitches are not used, you should expect food getting stuck in the hole. This usually leaves a very uncomfortable feeling.
Knowing what to do when food gets stuck in the tooth hole is the essence of writing this article.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
The wisdom teeth, also known as the last molars or third molars, are the last set of teeth to come out in the mouth. They usually start coming out between ages 17 to 25. Some may come out as early as 16 years and sometimes, later than 25years of age.
If after age 26 the wisdom teeth are yet to grow, it is either trapped in the jaw bone (impacted) due to inadequate space or it is missing.
What Happens After The Wisdom Tooth Is Removed?
After the wisdom tooth is extracted, the dentist may stitch up the hole. This is usually done in cases of surgical extraction when the tooth is impacted (trapped in the jaw bone), or the tooth is not properly aligned.
Stitches may also be placed in cases of excessive bleeding. If the extraction was a simple/ routine extraction stitches are usually not necessary.
After bleeding has stopped, a set of instructions would be given to you. One of the instructions is to avoid chewing on the side of the extracted tooth for at least 3 days so as to prevent food from getting stuck in the hole.
Now, chewing on one side may not be practical so most times you will be placed on liquid diet or foods that require no chewing.
How To Get Food Out Of Wisdom Tooth Hole
Food getting stuck in the wisdom tooth hole is very common, so it is best to know what to do if it eventually happens.
1. First things first, do not worry or panic. Food that gets caught in the wound may be uncomfortable. It’s more important to avoid touching or probing the wound.
2. Don’t confuse a blood clot with food. A blood clot is formed when the bleeding has stopped after an extraction. They may appear grey and look like food particles. Cleaning too vigorously, in this case, may remove the clot and cause further complications.
3. Do not use fingers or any foreign objects to remove food. Don’t use your tongue to poke the hole either as doing this may introduce bacteria to the wound, and could disrupt the healing process.
4. Never use a toothpick or dental floss because you only succeed in increasing the chances of infecting the tooth hole and it can also stimulate bleeding.
5. To remove the food, the best option is to use salt and warm water rinse. Swish it around your mouth until the food is removed. The salt-and-warm-water rinse is prepared by adding a level teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water. DO NOT USE HOT WATER. The solution is stirred and is used to remove the food debris. Be careful not to rinse too hard or aggressively.
6. Another option is to use water (room temperature) or mouthwash e.g chlorhexidine, Oral- B, Listerine. The mouthwash is usually sold over the counter. Ensure you dilute with water before use.
7. Use a plastic syringe if directed. This will help you control the flow of water and allow you to clean your wound more efficiently. However, if not used properly, it can dislodge the blood clot forming. Ensure you ask your dentist before you use one.
Fill the syringe with warm water. You may also use the warm saltwater solution described. Aim the tip of the syringe as close as possible to the site of your wound without actually touching it. Flush the site of the wound to thoroughly clean the wound and prevent infection. Do not push too forcefully.
8. A water pick, also known as an oral pulsating irrigator, is a device that aims a stream of water at your teeth. A water pick can help remove food particles from your teeth the way a toothpick would without causing harm to the gum.
You can aim the stream of water into the area where the food is stuck to try to dislodge it without injuring yourself.
What Can I Do To Prevent Food Getting Stuck?
Food getting stuck in tooth hole is a very uncomfortable feeling. Here are some of the ways it can be prevented.
- Avoid chewing on the side of the extraction for at least 3 days after. This may not be comfortable so you may be advised to take only liquid food, semi-solid food like custard or foods that don’t require chewing. Avoid grainy foods like rice or bread because these foods have a high chance of getting stuck in the extraction hole.
- From the second day after extraction, the warm salt water rinse should be started and this should be done at least eight times a day, especially after meals. This is done to rinse out any food particles that may be trapped and also to keep the area clean.
What Could Go Wrong If The Food Is Not Removed?
While any food particle stuck in wisdom tooth hole can be quite uncomfortable, it cannot cause an infection on its own. But if the food particles are not removed, it can provide a substrate for bacteria to grow. This then causes infection and really bad pain.
Once the wound begins to heal, the hole will be covered with a healthy layer of new cells to protect the deeper tissues from bacteria. When that happens, even if you have food particles go within the socket, it is unlikely that they can lead to infection.
Reasons For Removal Of Wisdom Teeth
The wisdom teeth that are usually removed are the ones in the lower jaw. They may need removal due to any of the following reasons –
This is the commonest reason for wisdom tooth removal. The wisdom teeth are usually the last set of teeth to come out and when they do, due to lack of space may not grow properly. This can lead to severe pain and the tooth would require removal.
2. Repeated Infection Of Soft Tissue
Sometimes, the wisdom tooth remains completely hidden within the gums. If they aren’t able to emerge normally, they become trapped (impacted) within your jaw and this can result in infection. The tooth may also grow partially through the gums and because this area is hard to clean, this will act as a potential area for food packing and debris accumulation leading to infection of the soft tissue (gums). Repeated infection would require removal of the wisdom tooth.
When the wisdom tooth starts to come out, there might be inadequate space and the tooth may be trapped in the jaw. Sometimes this can result in the formation of a fluid-filled sac also known as a cyst. This cyst can damage other teeth or the bone.
4. Damage To Nearby Teeth
As a result of inadequate space, the wisdom tooth may grow abnormally and this may cause damage to the nearby teeth. To prevent this damage, the tooth needs to be extracted. Also, if the tooth is causing gum disease, it needs to be removed.
5. Extensive Tooth Decay
Extensively decayed wisdom tooth requires an extraction. Failure to extract the tooth on time can lead to infection and abscess (pus) formation.
The wisdom tooth does not need to be removed if –
• It is healthy i.e. not decayed, infected or painful.
• It is fully erupted i.e. grown out completely in the mouth.
• It is positioned correctly and biting properly with their opposing teeth.
• It can be cleaned as part of daily oral hygiene practice.
How Long Does It Take For The Tooth Hole To Close Up?
The length of time taken for the tooth hole to close up is dependent on some factors.
• If the tooth was removed with minimal trauma to the surrounding tissues (especially the bone), the hole should close up by the second or third day. The gum tissue usually covers the wound within 2–5 days.
• If the tooth was surgically removed as a result of abnormal positioning, in such a way that it required removal of overlying bone and/or mucosa, it may take around 3–4 weeks to close up depending on how traumatic it was and the time taken to remove the tooth.
• Underlying medical conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, anemia, and many other diseases can prolong healing.
• If there was an infection after the removal, it may require more time for the hole to close up.
Once the hole has closed up, you don’t need to worry about food getting stuck in the hole again.
It is important to know what to do and not panic when food gets stuck in the wisdom tooth hole. Also, ensure that the post-extraction instructions are followed strictly so as to prevent complications.
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