No one wants to heave a tooth extracted, but oftentimes the damage is too great, and an extraction is the best option for your overall oral health. Unfortunately, with tooth extraction, there is always the risk of a dry socket. But what is a dry socket, and what does a dry socket look like?
Dry socket is the most common complication of tooth extractions, especially with wisdom tooth removal. The New Leaf Rohnert Park team offers an in-depth look at dry socket and how to avoid dry socket when you have oral surgery, especially tooth extraction.
What is a dry socket?
When you have an adult tooth extraction, a blood clot forms at the site where the tooth was removed. This clot acts as a protective barrier between the underlying bone and nerve endings in the empty tooth socket and the outside environment of your mouth. This clot works to prevent infection and allow new bone and soft tissue to grow and heal in the place where the tooth was removed.
Dry socket, or alveolar osteitis, can occur due to a number of different factors affecting that clot. In some cases, the clot may not develop as it should, leaving the underlying bone and nerves exposed. In other cases, the clot can become dislodged or dissolve prematurely before the underlying tissue seals the bone and nerves. When the underlying bone and nerves are exposed, it can result in intense pain that can radiate from your mouth to the side of your face. In addition, the empty socket can become inflamed and filled with food debris, increasing the pain and the potential risk of infection.
When looking into your mouth, a dry socket will appear as an empty hole where the tooth was located. You will not see any type of blood clot present in the socket.
Symptoms of dry socket
While pain is common after a tooth extraction, this pain should be easily managed. However, when a dry socket occurs, you will develop new or worsening pain that is often intense. This pain may radiate from the extraction site to your eye, ear, temple, or neck on the same side as the missing tooth. In addition to pain, you may also experience:
- The physical disappearance of any blood clot
- Visible bone in the socket
- Noticeable bad breath, often from bacterial contamination in the socket
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth from the bacterial contamination and buildup
Ten ways to help prevent dry socket
The good news is that you can do many things to help reduce your risk of a dry socket after tooth extraction. Knowing these tips in advance can help you prepare, as some of these tips are necessary to consider before the dentist removes your tooth.
1. Check your medications
Before having a tooth extraction, talk with your physician and dentist about your current medications. Medications, such as blood thinners, can affect the body’s ability to form a clot after tooth extraction and increase your dry socket risk. In addition, oral contraceptives can also disrupt normal healing processes and increase the dry socket risk. Your physician and dentist may recommend changes to your medications around your extraction date.
2. Reduce or quit smoking
We all know that smoking is bad for your overall health and encourage our readers to quit smoking. When it comes to tooth extraction and dry socket, smoking causes multiple risk factors. In general, smoking interferes with the normal healing process, increasing the risk of inappropriate clot formation. In addition, smoking increases blood pressure, leading to prolonged bleeding. From a physical aspect, the smoking action can cause suction in the mouth, increasing the risk of dislodging the clot.
3. Do not use straws
Like smoking, drinking through a straw can create suction in the mouth. This suction can dislodge a formed clot and increase the risk of dry socket.
4. Avoid alcohol use
When we talk about alcohol here, we are talking about both alcohol consumption and the use of alcohol-based mouthwashes. Alcohol can hinder the formation of a blood clot or cause it to dislodge prematurely.
5. Limit physical activity
Avoid strenuous activity for at least 24 hours after your tooth extraction to minimize bleeding and allow the clot to form properly.
6. Maintain proper oral hygiene
After tooth extraction, proper oral hygiene is essential to reduce the risk of bacterial build-up and possible infection. However, there are a few things to consider that we mention below.
7. Avoid brushing the extraction site
When brushing your teeth, it is crucial to avoid direct contact with the extraction site. The toothbrush can dislodge the clot and open up the socket. Avoid this area until the tissue completely heals.
8. Avoid vigorous mouth washing
While rinsing your mouth with alcohol-free mouthwash is a great way to help reduce bacteria in the mouth, it is important to do so gently. Avoid vigorous mouth rinsing as this can dislodge a properly formed clot.
9. No spitting
When rinsing your mouth or using alcohol-free mouthwash, it is important that you let the rinse gently drip out of your mouth and avoid spitting. Spitting can create a suction within the mouth and increase the clot’s risk of dislodging.
10. Stick with soft foods
You may want to stick with soft foods for the first couple of days, such as applesauce or mashed potatoes. Harder foods, chewy or sticky foods, and hot or spicy foods can become stuck within the socket and increase the risk of dislodging a clot. Also, avoid hot beverages, such as soup, for the first 24 hours as the temperature can affect clot formation. Whatever you do eat, avoid chewing on the side of your mouth where the tooth was removed.
Dry socket treatment
Treatment for a dry socket focuses on reducing pain and the healing of the open socket.
- Flushing the socket: Your dentist will flush out the socket to remove any food particles and other debris that can increase the risk of infection and contribute to pain.
- Medicated dressings: The dentist packs the socket with a medicated gel or paste and medicated dressings. These help to provide immediate pain relief. Your dentist may show you how to make regular dressing changes or schedule you for changes depending on your situation.
- Medication: You may receive a prescription for pain medications and/or antibiotics if you have an infection
- Self-care: Your dentist may instruct you on ways to flush your socket at home to promote healing. This technique uses a plastic syringe with a curved tip to direct a stream of water or prescription rinse into the socket.
We can help address your dry socket concerns.
At New Leaf Rohnert Park, we understand how intimidating a tooth extraction can be, as well as the fear of dry socket. Our caring team will walk you through your dental extraction step by step and answer any questions and concerns you have about dry socket and how to prevent it. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our dental team today online or call the office at (707) 586-1549.