Proper healing after oral surgery procedures such as teeth extractions, wisdom teeth, or dental implants requires strict adherence to post-operative instructions. One key instruction is to rinse with salt water for at least 10-14 days following oral surgery. Plaque retention is a common cause of postoperative infection, and effective salt water rinsing helps to minimize it.
Salt water has been widely used for generations to clean various wounds. It has antibacterial and preserving properties when applied in abundance to foods. However, its effectiveness in killing bacteria when diluted in water is less clear. Salt water changes the pH of the mouth, which can inhibit microbes, but it may not necessarily kill them.
The primary purpose of salt is to make the water more physiologic or “tissue friendly” for rinsing. It is beneficial following any oral surgery procedure including teeth extraction, wisdom teeth removal, or dental implants placement. Add a tablespoon of salt to a gallon of water, shake, and use it for your rinsing needs. The frequency of rinsing should be every 1-2 hours for at least 10-14 days, starting on the day following oral surgery.
The chief benefit from rinsing with salt water is its mechanical irrigation of plaque and food debris away from the surgical site. For that matter, rinsing even with tap water is helpful. So if you are at school or work and don’t have access to salt water, use plain tap water. It is best to avoid rinsing with alcohol-based mouth rinses within the first week after surgery as the alcohol can irritate healing tissues.