Dry socket, a dreaded term that’s often tossed around when people are recovering from tooth extractions, especially wisdom tooth extractions. Most people know a dry socket is bad, but many don’t know what a dry socket is, why it’s bad, and how to prevent it from occurring.
What Is Dry Socket?
When a tooth is removed, your body creates a blood clot over the tooth extraction site that protects the newly exposed bone and nerves until the mouth has time to heal. A dry socket is the term for when this blood clot becomes dislodged. Smokers, people with poor oral hygiene or a history of dry socket, and women on birth control pills all have higher rates of dry socket.
Why Is Dry Socket Bad?
With the blood clot no longer, your nerves and bones are vulnerable to bacterial contamination. Dry sockets are also very painful, causing pain to radiate from your mouth throughout your face. On top of the pain and infection risks, dry socket also slows down the healing process. Developing a dry socket is a pain complication that can easily be avoided.
How To Prevent Dry Socket
Drinking through a straw creates suction that can dislodge the blood clot and create a dry socket. Avoid using straws for at least one week after your extraction.
Avoid Smoking & Tobacco
As we mentioned above, people who smoke or chew tobacco are at a much higher risk of developing dry socket. In fact a recent study found that, 12% of smokers developed dry socket compared to 4% of nonsmokers. Smoking introduces bacteria to the site and the sucking action involved increases you risk of dislodging the clot. As for chewing tobacco, it can disturb the healing clot and have painful repercussions.
Dentists advice quitting or at least reducing your tobacco habit before your tooth extraction. If this is something you are not able or not interested in doing, follow our recommended tips below.
- Use a nicotine patch as an alternative while recovering
- Wait at least 48 hours after surgery before smoking
- When you begin smoking, inhale very gentle to lower risk of the suction dislodging the clot
- Keep gauze in place over the socket while smoking
- Ask your dentists for stitches at the incision site
- Be honest with your dentist about your intention to keep smoking/chewing tobacco. They will work with you to reduce the risks.
Choose the Right Foods
Most don’t feel like eating right after their extraction; however, most people regain their appetite at some point and will have to eat while the extraction site is healing. When you eat, stick to soft foods that don’t take much chewing. When you do chew, chew on the side of your mouth opposite of the extraction. Avoid sugary foods/beverages, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol.
Keep Good Oral Hygiene
Good oral hygiene during recovery is one of the best ways to prevent dry socket. Germs and infections can break down the clot over your extraction site causing dry socket. By keep your mouth clean you can prevent this. Make sure you gently brush teeth and tongue twice a day but avoid the extraction site for 24 hours. After the first day, gently rinse with antibacterial mouthwash daily.
Dry socket can be scary but if you follow the steps above you can greatly lower your risk of developing this painful complication. If you’re in need of a tooth extraction give us a call at 202-333-3883 or fill out our contact form.