Irrigation Instructions After Wisdom Tooth Surgery

Download PDF Version of these Instructions

Why do I have to irrigate?

  • Because your wisdom tooth sockets collect food debris while you eat.
  • Accumulating food debris cannot be cleared by mouth rinsing alone.
  • If food debris is not removed, you may develop a dry socket and/or infection.
  • Unremoved food debris may cause a foul taste and odor from your mouth.

When do I irrigate?

Starting on day 4 after surgery (e.g., if you have surgery on Friday [day 1], you would begin irrigating on Monday [day 4]). If you received PRF, start on day 7 after surgery.

WHAT does irrigating feel like?

  • It may be uncomfortable to open wide enough to get the syringe back to the hole to irrigate.
  • The first few times you irrigate, the sites may be tender for 15-30 minutes afterward. This is normal. This sensation will dissipate with repeated flushing.
  • There may be a slight oozing of blood the first few times you do this. This is normal and should go away.
  • If you skip irrigating for several days, it will be significantly more painful when you resume irrigating.

How do I irrigate?


  • At least twice a day. Preferably, after each meal to remove debris.
  • Keep going for at least 7 days.
  • You’ll know when to stop when the site no longer collects any significant food debris. This is typically after 2 weeks or so.


  • Irrigating syringe (provided by our office)
  • Tongue depressor (provided by our office)
  • Water or mouth rinse (either is fine)
  • A mirror and sink
  • A tissue, towel, or something to clean up with.

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Assemble the syringe
  2. Draw up irrigating liquid into syringe until it is about half full
  3. Open your mouth as wide as possible
  4. Placing the tongue depressor on top of your bottom teeth wtih the tip of the depressor as far back until it almost contacts your jaw bone
  5. Rotate the tongue depressor 90 degrees until the flat part of the tongue depressor is against the cheek
  6. Gently pull the cheek out laterally (toward your cheek) with the tongue depressor until the cheek is taught. This should reveal the hole in the gum tissue that leads down to your socket.
  7. Place the tip of the syringe 1-2mm into the hole
  8. Gently push the syringe plunger in slow, pumping motions until the irrigating liquid is out.
  9. Repeat until the irrigating liquid coming from the socket runs clear
  10. Repeat on the other side.

Image of a patient receiving wisdom teeth irrigation

The syringe just needs to be pulled apart, rinsed, and set out to air dry after each use. The syringe is NOT dishwasher safe.


Should I use water or the mouth rinse?

Either is completely fine. The main goal with irrigating is to get food debris out with a flushing action.

Can I just use my WaterPik?

NO! The force generated by your WaterPik can damage the fragile healing clot predisposing you to a dry socket. It can also dissect the healing tissues away from one another causing hematoma or seroma formation. In short, don’t use your WaterPik until at least day 7 after surgery, or when directed to do so by our team.

I can’t see where I’m supposed to put the syringe tip?

This is a common problem. The hole that you need to find is usually small and located directly behind the last tooth in the back. To help, try placing the tongue depressor far back until it almost hits the jaw, then gently pull laterally (out toward your ear). This may help “open” the hole for you to see. If you’re still having difficulty, please call our office so that you can come in for us to demonstrate this for you!

Image a wisdom tooth removal location

It’s too dark back there. I can’t see this in the mirror. Any suggestions?

Don’t give up…ask for help! Ask a family member. A flashlight or hiking headlight makes visualization much easier.

There is a “gash” in my cheek. Is this normal?

Yes. This is the healing releasing incision. It is normal.

Do I have to irrigate the top sockets?

Usually, the top sockets don’t collect much food debris. Any debris that may get impacted in the top sockets typically drains naturally by gravity. However, you can certainly clean these holes out if you wish.

This sounds like a hassle. Do I really have to do it?

YES. Failure to irrigate (for whatever reason) usually results in dry socket, delayed healing, infection, or all of the above. On very rare occasions, the gum tissue at the extraction sites heals quickly and closes the hole so there is nowhere for food debris to accumulate and therefore no hole for irrigation. If you’ve followed the above and nothing seems to be working, this may be the case.

Can I get help?

YES! Please call us anytime if you have questions or if you would like for us to help you find the holes or demonstrate the correct irrigating technique. We’re always here to help! (970) 669-4802