As much as we hate to part with our beloved teeth- sometimes we have to let them go when they’re causing discomfort or simply cannot be saved. Having a tooth extracted sounds scarier than it actually is. The many advancements in pain-free dentistry make it unnecessary to worry about the actual process of extraction. All you will have to focus on is taking care of the extraction site after surgery to avoid developing dry socket.
What is dry socket?
Dry socket or “alveolar osteitis” is a condition that occurs after tooth extraction, that results in the inflammation of the tooth socket (alveolus). When an adult tooth is removed, a blood clot forms in the hole/ socket left in the jaw bone. The formation of a blood clot is vital to the healing process. If the clot fails to form or dissolves within a few days following an extraction, the bone and nerve are left exposed to air, food and debris which enter the mouth. Normal tooth extractions very rarely result in dry socket. The removal of wisdom teeth, on the other hand, leads to a higher occurrence of dry socket.
Symptoms of dry socket
- A throbbing pain in the jaw or gum that occurs a few days after extraction
- Bad breath
- A foul taste in the mouth
- Exposed jaw bone where the extracted tooth used to be
- Partial or complete lack of a blood clot, resulting in a dry-looking socket
Causes of dry socket
Dry socket is generally caused by bacterial, chemical, mechanical or physiological factors:
- Bacterial: If you had an infection in your mouth such as periodontitis, that existed before the extraction, the bacteria can result in the blood clot being dislodged.
- Chemical: The presence of nicotine in cigarettes affects the supply of blood to the socket, preventing the proper formation of a blood clot.
- Mechanical; Excessive rinsing and spitting or pulling on either a cigarette or straw can cause the blood clot to become dislodged.
- Physiological: Hormones, as well as an inadequate supply of blood to the extraction site, can prevent a blood clot from forming.
Who is more likely to develop dry socket?
- Smokers- especially if a cigarette is smoked within 3 days of surgery
- People who neglect to practice good dental hygiene
- Patients who extract wisdom teeth
- Patients above the age of 30 with impacted wisdom teeth
- People with a history of developing dry socket following an extraction
- People with periodontal disease or pericoronitis
- Women using contraceptive pills
Can dry socket be prevented?
Preventative measures you can take before surgery
- Speak to your dentist about any medications you are taking, in order to determine whether these medications may interfere with the formation of blood clots.
- If you smoke- it is best to stop before your teeth can be extracted, as the substances in cigarettes increase the risk of dry socket.
Preventative measures that the dentist or oral surgeon may take
- Oral antibiotics may be prescribed, especially if you have a weakened immune system.
- Antiseptic solutions may be applied to the wound.
- Medicated dressings may be placed in the socket following surgery.
Preventative measures you can take post-surgery
- Follow your dentist’s or oral surgeon’s advice regarding when to return to everyday activities as well as sporting activities.
- Take pain medication as prescribed by the dentist or oral surgeon.
- Follow the dentist’s or oral surgeon’s instructions on when to apply cold packs and warm packs to the side of your face to reduce swelling and pain.
- Avoid alcohol, carbonated drinks, caffeinated drinks and hot beverages for as long as the dentist or oral surgeon recommends.
- Avoid drinking with a straw for at least a week as the sucking action can cause the dislodgment of the blood clot.
- Eat soft foods on the day of extraction and then move on to semi-soft foods when you feel you are able to manage it.
- Try to chew on the side of your mouth unaffected by surgery.
- Brush your teeth and rinse your mouth very gently, taking care to avoid the extraction side for at least a day.
- After a day, you may then rinse your mouth with warm salt water a few times a day for about a week.
If you experience any of the symptoms associated with dry socket following an extraction- give us a call. Even if you’re a little worried about the healing process after you’ve had your tooth extracted- we’re happy to answer any of your questions to help put your mind at ease. Our dedicated team at All About Teeth are here to make sure your road to recovery is a smooth one! To find out more about preventing dry socket, or to request an appointment, please contact us.