When you get a tooth pulled you will often get instructions on how to prevent dry socket, but do you know what a dry socket is?
It’s the most common complication patients experience after a tooth extraction, especially when it comes to wisdom teeth removal. The condition prolongs the healing process and can be very painful. Let’s dive deeper into what a dry socket is and how you can lower your risk of dry sockets.
Dry Socket Vs Normal Socket
So what’s the difference when it comes to dry socket vs normal socket?
After tooth removal, a blood clot will form in the normal tooth socket. The clot is there to help protect the socket and heal the nerve endings and bone that are underneath. While the clot remains, the pain you experience will gradually lessen.
If that blood clot dissolves or comes loose it will cause a dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis. That leaves the bone and nerves in the socket without any protection. Instead of the pain receding, it will suddenly become more intense, similar to a severe toothache.
Symptoms of Dry Socket
The main thing you’ll notice if you have a dry socket is the pain, as we just mentioned. That pain may not be limited to just the extraction site though. It may extend over to your ear, eye, temple, or neck on the same side as the socket.
There are a few signs aside from the severe pain that you can look for.
Take a look at the extraction site. You should be able to see the clot in the socket. If it looks empty or you can even see bone underneath, you likely have a dry socket.
You may also notice you have bad breath or an unpleasant odor coming from your mouth. It may cause a bad taste, as well.
How to Prevent Dry Socket
There are a few things you can do to help prevent dry socket.
First, do not create suction in your mouth. You need to avoid straws, smoking, or anything else that will cause you to suck in. The suction can cause the clot to come loose. Smoking also delays healing and increases your blood pressure.
Watch what and how you eat. You should try not to chew on the side of your mouth where the tooth was removed. Eat soft foods instead of things that are hard or crunchy. This lowers the chance that something will get lodged in the socket or the clot coming loose.
Don’t rinse your mouth too vigorously. You’re allowed to rinse your mouth after having an extraction, but doing it too forcefully can dislodge the clot that’s protecting your socket.
Avoid drinking alcohol or mouthwashes that contain alcohol for at least 24 hours after the procedure. Alcohol can cause extra bleeding, which will delay the healing process.
In those first 24 hours, you should also limit physical activity. Strenuous activity is another thing that can lead to more bleeding.
Proper Extraction Site Care
Maintaining good oral hygiene will be even more important during the recovery process. It will help ensure the blood clot stays put and prevent germs and infection.
Your dentist or oral surgeon should tell you how you need to brush for the first day, possibly even recommend you only use a mouth rinse.
The ADA recommends not cleaning the teeth around the extraction site for the first 24 hours but still brushing and flossing all of your other teeth. After that, you can begin cleaning the teeth around the socket and using a warm salt water rinse after eating.
How to Treat a Dry Socket
Treating a dry socket deals largely with reducing pain.
Using an over-the-counter pain medication can help, but you may need a prescription medication to adequately lessen the discomfort. Ask your dentist which medication would be best for your situation.
Your dentist may use a medicated dressing to decrease your pain level and protect the area. A medicated gel or paste may be used, as well.
It may be necessary to flush the socket at home with saltwater or a prescription rinse. This helps remove debris and promote healing.
If you think you may have a dry socket, contact your dentist to get the best guidance. They will be able to tell you if the best course of action is using a home remedy or if it’s severe enough for you to come in for a visit so they can more thoroughly address the problem.