Dry socket is a painful dental condition that happens in about 1-5% of all tooth extractions and 38% of wisdom tooth extractions in the lower jaw. It happens when the blood clot protecting the socket dissolves or becomes dislodged before the wound fully recovers.
This can expose the bone and nerves in the socket, leading to severe pain, infection, and a prolonged healing process.
Causes of Dry Socket
There are several causes of dry socket, including the extraction process. Other factors contributing to dry socket include smoking, oral contraceptives, and poor oral hygiene.
Smoking is particularly detrimental to the healing process, as it constricts blood vessels, reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the wound.
Women who take oral contraceptives are also at higher risk of developing dry socket. Artificial hormones in oral contraceptives, including estrogen and progestin, prevent rapid healing. To minimize the risk of dry socket, it is recommended that extractions be performed during days 23 to 28 of the contraceptive cycle.
Poor oral hygiene can lead to infection, exacerbating pain and slowing healing. While you shouldn’t brush the socket directly, gently brushing and flossing around the socket can prevent food debris and bacteria from causing inflammation and infection.
How to Prevent Dry Socket
The best way to prevent dry socket is to carefully follow your dentist’s post-operative instructions. This may include avoiding crunchy, hard, and tough foods, using pain medication as directed, and keeping the area clean by brushing carefully around the socket.
For the first 24 hours, avoid rinsing your mouth. After the clot has developed, you can use a warm salt water rinse made with one tablespoon of salt dissolved in one cup of warm water. Swish the solution gently from side to side for at least 30 seconds to remove debris, then let the water fall from your mouth into the sink; do not spit forcefully because this can dislodge the blood clot.
It’s essential to avoid smoking and tobacco products for at least a week after the extraction. Do not use a straw when drinking beverages, as the suction can dislodge the blood clot.
When to See a Dentist
If you suspect you have dry socket, schedule an appointment with your dentist, who can help relieve the discomfort and promote healing. Your dentist can also ensure you don’t have an infection that spreads to the bone. See your dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Ongoing swelling and pain
- Persistent bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pus from the extraction site
Prevention is Crucial to Avoid Dry Socket
A dry socket is a potentially dangerous secondary condition that can occur following tooth extraction. If you experience dry socket, seek professional help if the pain is severe or if you notice any signs of infection.
Aurora Dental Group provides personalized care, patient education, and a comfortable environment, and we are a trusted and reliable partner in your oral health journey. Call us at (630) 896-7354 to schedule a consultation.