Here’s How You Can Prevent Dry Socket

Whether you have overcrowded teeth, an impacted wisdom tooth, a traumatic dental injury, or advanced decay, a tooth extraction is a simple way to resolve the problem and protect your oral health.   

When the dentists at Smiles in Springfield remove an adult tooth, they take every precaution to ensure that the empty space in your gums heals properly so it won’t succumb to a common and often painful complication known as “dry socket.”  

Let’s explore how dry socket develops after a routine tooth extraction — and the steps you can take to prevent it as you heal. 

What is dry socket?

Every tooth sits tight in its own socket, the deep opening in the gum tissue that extends down to the bone. When a permanent tooth is pulled, its empty socket forms a protective blood clot over the underlying bone and nerves that’s vital to the formation of new bone growth and gum tissue. 

Dry socket occurs when a blood clot fails to develop at the site of an extraction, or when a clot that forms properly later moves out of place or dissolves before the socket has healed.    

As the most common complication following any type of tooth extraction, dry socket can cause intense, radiating pain that may worsen if the area becomes inflamed or if food debris becomes trapped in the socket. 

How can I prevent dry socket?

The team at Smiles in Springfield takes the utmost care to promote optimal healing following a tooth extraction. This may include applying an antibacterial gel before the procedure, applying an antiseptic solution to the open socket, and applying a medicated dressing after surgery.   

While these measures certainly set the stage for a speedy and problem-free recovery, proper self-care in the days following surgery is even more important when it comes to preventing dry socket. To facilitate optimal healing following your extraction, you should: 

Get adequate rest

It’s important to rest for the remainder of the day following tooth extraction surgery, as your body is working hard to form the clot that will protect your open socket and help it heal. 

You’ll also need to abstain from intense exercise and other rigorous activities for several days to avoid the possibility of displacing the clot.

Practice gentle oral hygiene 

For the first 24 hours after your procedure, you may brush and floss your teeth and gently rinse your mouth, but don’t disturb the extraction site. Once the initial healing process is underway, you can begin rinsing your mouth several times a day with an antibacterial mouthwash or warm salt water as advised. 

Control swelling and pain

To ease pain and swelling in the first 24 hours as the clot forms, take over-the-counter pain medication as directed and periodically apply a cold compress to the outside of your face. After that, use a warm compress to ease discomfort and residual swelling. 

Adjust your dietary habits

Stick to soft or liquid foods like yogurt, applesauce, or soup for at least the entire day of your surgery. Drink plenty of water after surgery, taking care to avoid extremely hot or cold liquids before the anesthesia has worn off. 

While you should refrain from chewing on the surgery side of your mouth until it’s fully healed, you can begin eating semi-soft foods when you can tolerate them on the unaffected side of your mouth. 

Steer clear of alcohol, caffeinated, and carbonated beverages as advised, and don’t use a straw for at least a week, as the sucking action can shift the clot out of the socket. 

Abstain from tobacco use

If you smoke cigarettes or chew “smokeless” tobacco, it’s important to abstain from your habit for at least the first 48 to 72 hours following surgery, and longer if you can. 

Tobacco contains nicotine and other harmful substances that delay post-surgical healing and increase the risk of complications, including dry socket. In fact, tobacco use is a leading cause of dry socket following a routine tooth extraction. 

Could I still develop dry socket?

Following recommended self-care measures after tooth extraction surgery can go a long way toward mitigating your risk of dry socket, but it doesn’t eliminate your risk entirely. 

A difficult extraction, such as the kind that can occur with impacted wisdom teeth, can boost your chances of developing dry socket; bacterial contamination can also make the complication more likely.

If you do develop dry socket, it’s important to know that the intense pain that comes with it usually begins within the first three days after surgery. If you experience this kind of pain after an extraction, schedule an emergency dentistry visit as Smiles in Springfield as soon as possible. 

Remember, dry socket won’t resolve itself — it requires expert care and a careful treatment approach to alleviate pain, reverse the problem, and get the healing process back on track.  

To learn more about dry socket or schedule an appointment at our Springfield, Virginia, office, call 703-634-4239 today.

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