Dry Socket: How To Prevent This Painful Complication

If you are going in for an extraction, whether it is a wisdom tooth or otherwise, there are a number of post-surgery complications that might occur. Most of them are rare and minor, and don't require much more than a quick visit to your dentist. The most severe and painful is dry socket. While it does not happen all the time, it is possible, but you can prevent it by taking good care of yourself and following the oral surgeon's instructions.

What is Dry Socket?

Dry socket, medically termed alveolar osteitis, is a common complication after the extraction of a tooth or teeth. A dry socket occurs when a blood clot either fails to form or is lost from the socket of the extracted tooth. This blood clot protected the bone, and without it, the tender bone is exposed. This can cause an ache in addition to the discomfort in recovering from an extraction. It can also cause a bad taste or odor. Dry socket usually begins several days post extraction, and can be quite painful.

Do Not Smoke

The number one, chief cause of dry socket is smoking. Smoking constricts blood flow, which can stop the blood clot from forming properly. And the act of inhaling or pulling on a cigarette pulls out a blood clot which may have been there. A smoker has a very good chance of avoiding dry socket by not smoking for a week after the extraction. If this is not possible, delay smoking after an extraction for as many hours as you can.

Don't Use a Straw

The sucking motion of the cigarette is the biggest concern for smoking, but using a straw is just as risky. When your mouth is making that sucking motion, it has the potential to dislodge the blood clot protecting your bone following extraction. You will know immediately it has dislodged because the pain happens instantaneously. When drinking after the procedure, drink from a cup without a straw for several days.

Additional Preventative Tips

You will probably leave the dentist's office after an extraction biting on gauze. Change the gauze only at 20 minute intervals. Doing so more frequently can displace a forming clot. You may want to spit a lot after an extraction. You have also probably been told to rinse the area with warm salt water and spit. Try to reduce spitting by only spitting after the warm salt water rinse. When you do spit, lean over the sink and let gravity take the water out. Spitting with any forcefulness can easily displace the blood clot.

Keep your tongue and finger away from the socket. Your fingers can introduce infection, and both your tongue and fingers can displace the clot.

If you do end up with a dry socket, see your dentist. They can place a special medication inside the socket that can ease your pain right away. They can also prescribe or recommend painkillers. In a small amount of cases of dry socket, a tiny portion of bone must be removed in order to allow the gums to close over it better. 

For more information contact a local dental clinic that specializes in tooth extractions, like Campus Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.