Dry socket is a painful complication that can occur after a tooth extraction. After the extraction, a blood clot will form, which is part of the natural healing process. If that blood clot is removed before the healing process is complete, it leads to exposed nerves and bone. The condition is not life threatening, however, it is extremely painful and should be immediately addressed with your dentist. While the etiology of dry socket is technically unknown, there are certain habits or post-operative actions that are associated with the occurrence of dry socket.
Most often, cases of dry socket have been documented in patients that smoke or use tobacco products, take birth control pills, or do not follow their post-operative instructions. There are rare cases where patients follow all instructions and take all precautions and still get dry socket. Dry socket typically occurs 2-3 days after the extraction and it will be extremely painful.
Follow these steps post-extraction to reduce your chances of getting dry socket:
- Stay on a soft diet for 48 hours
- Chew on the opposite side of the extraction site and keep food away from that area
- Drink plenty of fluids but stay away from alcohol
- Do not drink through a straw as the negative pressure will remove the blood clot
- Do not rinse or spit for at least 24 hours as this could remove the blood clot
- No smoking or tobacco/nicotine use for at least 48 hours
- Avoid strenuous activity for 48 hours. This includes exercise, playing sports, heavy lifting, and running.
If you do fall victim to dry socket, be sure to contact your dentist for treatment. Treatment will most likely involve irrigating and cleaning the extraction site and packing it with medication. It may take 2-3 additional visits to the dentist before the pain will start to subside. If dry socket does occur, it is going to increase the amount of time it takes for the extraction site to heal and it could be up to a week before you start to feel improvements.
Remember to always follow the dentists’ post-operative instructions to ensure optimal healing and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact your dental professional. To learn more about tooth extractions check out our blog on wisdom teeth extractions. For questions or concerns don’t hesitate to contact us or request an appointment online!