What is a Dry Socket, and How Do I Avoid One?

After a tooth extraction procedure, you will be left with an empty socket in your gum, which requires special care to allow the wound to heal quickly and successfully. In most cases, a dental implant is placed in the empty socket to replace the missing tooth. Your doctor might decide to place the implant on the same day of tooth extraction or wait for the socket to heal.

If the tooth is not replaced with an implant immediately, a blood clot is expected to form in the empty socket to cover the exposed jawbone and enable the wound’s speedy healing. If, for whatever reason, this blood doesn’t form, gets dissolved before the wound is healed, or it is dislodged from the socket, you get a dry socket.

Causes of Dry Socket

Although it is still not clear what specifically causes dry socket, there are several known risk factors that you need to keep in mind.

  • Smoking and chewing tobacco – tobacco contain harmful substances that prevent or slow down healing. These substances might also contaminate the socket, causing infections. The act of sucking on a cigarette or straw can dislodge the blood clot.
  • Oral contraceptive – the high estrogen levels in oral contraceptives can disrupt the healing process and cause a dry socket.
  • Improper care at home – if you fail to follow your doctor’s instructions during recovery, you will end up with a dry socket.
  • If you develop an infection around the extracted tooth, you face the risk of getting a dry socket.

Symptoms of Dry Socket

  • Severe pain in the jaw and side of your face a few days after tooth extraction
  • Partial or complete loss of blood clot in the socket
  • Visible jawbone in the empty socket
  • Pain radiating from your jaw to your eye, temple, or neck on the affected side of your face
  • Bad breath
  • Unpleasant taste

How to Prevent Dry Socket

The best way to prevent a dry socket is not to do anything that might disrupt routine healing and disturb the blood clot. For instance, you should avoid;

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Sucking on straws
  • Rinsing your mouth vigorously.
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Taking oral contraceptives and other blood-thinning medications
  • Engaging in intense physical activities a few days after tooth extraction
  • Spitting
  • Chewing on the affected side of your mouth
  • Hard and crunchy food
  • Carbonated or hot drinks as they could dissolve the blood clot

A lot of this is common sense. You need to baby your mouth after any oral surgery and any behavior that doesn’t see like a natural thing to do is probably best to avoid.

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