Are you getting your wisdom teeth pulled or need to remove a decayed or infected tooth? The days immediately following a tooth extraction are a critical period for the healing process. If you’re not careful, you could wind up with a painful case of dry socket. To avoid this unpleasant fate, follow these five essential tips from a dentist.
What Is Dry Socket?
After tooth removal, a blood clot usually forms over the socket where the tooth once was. This blood clot protects the underlying bones and nerve endings while the area heals. However, sometimes the clot can dissolve or become dislodged, leaving the extraction site exposed and delaying the healing process. This is known as dry socket, a painful complication that rarely goes away without professional treatment.
Dry Socket Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of dry socket may include:
- Severe pain on the same side of your face as the extraction a few days after the procedure
- Persistent bad breath, even after brushing
- Unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Partial or total loss of the blood clot at the tooth extraction site
- Visible bone in the socket
5 Tips to Avoid Dry Socket
While dry socket is never 100% avoidable, you can reduce the chance of it happening to you by following these easy tips.
#1: Avoid Tobacco
Tobacco use in any form (smoking, chewing, or even vaping) can increase your risk of dry socket. The sucking action of smoking a cigarette can dislodge a blood clot. Tobacco also reduces the blood flow to the mouth, slowing down the healing process. One analysis published in the National Library of Medicine found that tobacco smokers were three times more likely to develop dry socket after tooth extraction compared to nonsmokers.
#2: Avoid Straws
Similar to cigarettes, the suction forces from drinking with a straw can dislodge a blood clot. Stick to drinking out of cups and glasses for at least one week after a tooth extraction.
#3: Avoid Certain Foods
Stay away from small foods that can get stuck in your socket, such as nuts, seeds, and chips. Sticky candy should also be avoided. Soft foods like yogurt, applesauce, or mashed potatoes are excellent options after oral surgery.
#4: Share Your Medical History
Certain medications thin the blood, which can prevent a blood clot from forming over the site of your tooth extraction. For this reason, be sure to share any medications you are on with your dentist ahead of time.
#5: Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Practicing excellent oral hygiene at home will help prevent bacteria from attacking and breaking down the blood clot. Ask your dentist for specific tips on how to brush your teeth after an extraction surgery.
Tooth extraction aftercare is easy if you follow the tips above and the instructions from your dentist. Don’t hesitate to call their office before your extraction appointment to get more great recovery advice!
About the Author
Dr. Jeff Lee regularly performs high-quality oral surgery for his patients in the Muskingum Valley. He is also a part-time faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry in the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department. For more tips to prevent dry socket, visit Dr. Lee’s website or call (740) 236-9392.