Sometimes you simply can’t avoid a tooth extraction. Whether you’re getting your wisdom teeth removed or undergoing an extraction to prevent crowding in your mouth, sometimes it’s necessary to promote good dental health.
Yet, extractions can still cause stress on your mouth. To ensure your extraction goes successfully, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid a dry socket.
[RELATED: Find out everything you need to know about any common dental procedure in our comprehensive guide: Common Dental Procedures Explained.]
What Is a Dry Socket?
After a tooth extraction, your mouth automatically creates a blood clot that forms over your bone and nerves as a barrier of protection. Sometimes the blood clot can become dislodged from your gum line, exposing the nerve — thus, producing a dry socket.
Causes of a Dry Socket
Dry sockets aren’t very common, though they can be extremely painful when they occur. Many factors can attribute to this condition. Some of the most common causes of a dry socket include:
Smoking and Chewing Tobacco
Your mouth needs time to heal, so you should avoid any type of oral nicotine for at least 48 hours after your tooth extraction.
While brushing your teeth is an important step in maintaining good oral hygiene, you want to avoid brushing the area around the tooth extraction until your mouth has time to heal. Most dentists recommend waiting at least 24 hours after an extraction before brushing.
Try to eat soft foods after an extraction. You’ll want to try to keep all food and drink on the side of your mouth that wasn’t affected by the extraction. Don’t eat foods that are likely to get stuck in your gums. Rinse your mouth after eating.
You don’t want to jostle the blood clot, so you’ll want to avoid strenuous activities after an extraction. The best thing you can do to encourage your gums to heal is to get rest. Strenuous activities can also put stress on your system and slow down the healing process.
Tips on Preventing a Dry Socket
In addition to avoiding the above activities, there are actions you can take to help prevent dry sockets after extractions. All patients should do the following after an extraction to ensure a speedy recovery.
Keep Your Mouth Free of Debris
Don’t chew gum or objects (such as pens, fingernails or ice) for a few days after a tooth extraction. You don’t want anything to dislodge the blood clot from your gum, so steer clear of crunchy foods for a few days.
Rinse Your Mouth Sparingly
Your dentist may recommend rinsing your mouth a few times a day to clear any bacteria. Don’t rinse too often, as this can also wash away the clot and cause a dry socket.
Change Your Dressings
Should your dentist recommend you return to the office to change your dressings, heed this advice. You don’t want your gums to become infected because of a dirty dressing.
Your dentist may advise you to take over-the-counter medications, such as NSAIDS or aspirin, to ease the pain after surgery. He or she may also prescribe you an antibiotic to ward off a possible infection should your blood clot become dislodged.
While dry sockets aren’t common, they can easily happen. Following your dentist’s advice and taking care of your gums will ensure a speedy recovery after a tooth extraction.