Throbbing pain. Earaches. Unpleasant breath.
We wouldn’t wish dry socket on anyone. Unfortunately, dry socket sometimes develops after tooth extraction, but only to about 2% to 5% of people.
Alveolar Osteitis (dry socket) occurs when the blood clot that forms after tooth extraction has been dislodged or dissolved a couple of days after the extraction. The bone and nerve can then be exposed to air, food, fluid, and more. This may lead to an infection and intense pain for about a week. It’s very unpleasant, but luckily it doesn’t last forever.
Who Can Get Dry Socket?
Anyone can get dry socket, but some people may be more prone, including:
- People who have poor oral hygiene
- Those who smoke
- Individuals getting their wisdom teeth pulled
- Women who use birth control pills
- Anyone who has a history of dry socket after tooth extraction
How to Avoid Dry Socket after Tooth Removal
Sometimes a dry socket is just terrible luck, but some factors raise your risk for dry socket. Here are five ways to steer clear of dry socket.
1. Avoid Straws
Sucking on a straw creates suction that could potentially dislodge the blood clot. Avoid using a straw for 24-48 hours after your tooth extraction to avoid dry socket. If you get a smoothie, use a spoon.
2. Avoid Spitting
This may be a hard rule to follow, but it’s essential. Spitting vigorously after rinsing or for any reason creates pressure and suction in your mouth, which could dislodge your blood clot. After rinsing, avoid spitting vigorously. Instead, let the water drip out of your mouth to keep that blood clot intact.
3. Avoid Smoking/ Tobacco Use
Stay away from oral tobacco use or smoking for at least 48 hours after your extraction. Smoking and tobacco use can interfere with blood flow and disrupt the extraction site’s healing process, leading to dry socket. Smoking is terrible for your oral health in general, and it’s especially bad in the wake of a tooth pulling.
4. Avoid Brushing the Extraction Site Directly
This is the only time we’ll instruct you not to brush. You can continue to brush, but avoid the extraction site altogether. Brushing could dislodge the clot. Plus, brushing will also be painful right after tooth extraction anyhow. Avoid brushing the area for about 4-5 days after your tooth is pulled. You can use a prescription mouthwash or a warm saline rinse in the days right after your extraction.
5. Avoid Hard, Crunchy Foods
Tooth extraction is the perfect excuse to eat pudding and smoothies all day. You’ll want to avoid any hard, crunchy, or sticky foods for at least two weeks. Swallowing hard and crunchy foods risks dislodging the blood clot, damaging it, or leaving debris behind that can irritate your socket. Trust us; it’s not worth it. Stick with yogurt, pudding, jello, smoothies, applesauce, etc.
Symptoms of a Dry Socket
The most prominent symptom of dry socket is severe pain a couple of days after your tooth extraction. If you look at the area where your tooth is pulled, you might notice a dry-looking opening with whitish bone exposed instead of a dark clot; that is a dry socket. The pain may also radiate to your ear and cause horrible breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
Dry Socket Treatment
You have probably already been prescribed a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to help with pain, especially if your wisdom teeth were pulled.
In some dry socket cases, your dentist will have you continue taking those medications and wait it out. Sometimes those over-the-counter medicines aren’t enough to ease the pain, so your doctor may prescribe something stronger or will possibly anesthetize the area. In this case, the dentist will clean out the tooth socket to remove any debris from the hole and then fill the socket with medicine to heal the area. You may have to come back frequently to change the dressing until the dry socket is finally healed.
Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics in advance or recommend a salt water rinse or a special mouthwash to proactively avoid a dreaded infection.
Fortunately, dry socket does not last forever, but it’s something you want to avoid at all costs. Knowledge is power. So, now that you know what dry socket is and how to avoid it, you may have a much easier recovery after your tooth removal.
If you have had dry socket in the past you have a greater risk for getting another case of it following a subsequent tooth extraction. Make sure to tell your dentist about your history so that they can help you avoid a second round of dry socket.