Dry Socket: Causes, and Prevention

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There are several reasons why you might have to undergo tooth extraction in your adulthood. Most adults are familiar with wisdom tooth removal, but there are other instances, such as overcrowding of teeth, risk of developing periodontal disease, or tooth decay that can warrant a tooth extraction. While the entire process can be a bit strenuous if you are in for a tooth surgery, certain complications like dry socket can interfere with the healing process. Keep reading to know more about what a dry socket is and how to prevent it post tooth extraction.

What is a dry socket?

After the tooth is successfully pulled out, a blood clot forms at that site and forms a protective layer over the underlying nerve endings and bone in the empty tooth socket. This clot doubles as a foundation for the growth of new bone and soft tissue. This is how the entire healing process works. However, at times, this blood clot does not form over the empty tooth socket or is dislodged or dissolves even before the site of extraction heals. This exposes the underlying bone and nerves, which causes intense pain in the socket and the nerves that extend to the side of your face. Moreover, the condition becomes more painful if the empty socket is filled with food debris and becomes inflamed. Now that you know what a dry socket is, let’s learn how to identify dry socket symptoms.

Dry Socket symptoms

The major dry socket symptoms include:

  • Missing clot at the extraction site

  • Unpleasant taste in the mouth

  • Visible bone in the empty tooth socket

  • Severe pain after tooth extraction

  • Bad breath

  • Pain that starts from the extraction site to the eye, temple, ear, or neck on the same side

Dry socket after extraction can occur immediately after the procedure or within a few days. While a tooth extraction can cause a certain amount of pain and discomfort, severe or worsening pain is not considered normal. In case you develop new or worsening pain after tooth extraction, you need to consult your dentist or oral surgeon immediately.

Dry socket causes

While the actual dry socket causes remain a subject of study, this condition mostly occurs due to:

  • Trauma at the surgical site that follows a difficult extraction

  • Bacterial contamination of the empty tooth socket post-extraction

Other factors that can increase the risk of dry socket are:

  • Using oral contraceptives:

    The high levels of oestrogen in oral contraceptives can interfere with the normal healing process and increase the risk of developing a dry socket.

  • Having a dry socket in the past:

    If you had a dry socket in the past, there are higher chances of developing it again after another tooth extraction.

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco:

    The chemicals in cigarettes and tobacco can slow down the healing process and even contaminate the site of extraction. While smoking, the act of sucking on the cigarette can dislodge the blood clot that forms on the site of tooth extraction.

  • Not following proper aftercare measures:

    There are certain aftercare measures you need to undertake to ensure that the blood clot remains intact and the wound heals. However, not following the aftercare measures that your dentist recommends can make you susceptible to a dry socket.

  • Tooth or gum infection:

    If you have experienced current or previous infections around the extracted tooth can increase the chances of a dry socket.

Treatment for dry socket

To answer your query on how to treat dry socket, it mostly includes flushing out the socket to remove food or any other debris that can cause the pain. Or, your dentist or oral surgeon would pack the socket with a medicated paste or gel to relieve the pain and lower the severity of the symptoms. Once the dressing is removed, you will be advised to flush the socket at home by rinsing your mouth with salt water or a prescription rinse.

How to prevent dry socket

There are certain steps you need to undertake before and after the tooth extraction that can help prevent dry socket.

Steps to undertake before the tooth extraction

  • It’s advisable to stop smoking or using any other form of tobacco a few days before the tooth extraction. This can increase the chances of developing a dry socket.

  • Inform your dentist or oral surgeon about the medications you take as they can interfere with the blood clotting.

Steps to undertake after the tooth extraction

  • It’s vital that you eat only soft foods post-extraction. You can switch to semi-solid food once you can tolerate them. Also, avoid chewing on the side where you had the surgery.

  • Apply a cold pack to the side of your cheek on the first day after the tooth extraction and follow it up with a warm compress. This can help you manage the pain and swelling. However, if the pain continues, it is advisable to consult with your dentist immediately.

  • Gently rinse your mouth and brush your teeth, but it’s important to avoid the extraction site for the next 24 hours.

  • Do not smoke or use tobacco for at least 48 hours after the surgery and even after that. It can delay the healing process or even lead to a dry socket.

General tips to maintain oral hygiene

To avoid any dental problems in future that can be brought on by tooth decay or other dental problems, here are some general tips to help you keep your teeth and gums healthy.

  • Brush at least two times a day:

    You can use an Oral-B ProHealth Manual toothbrush since it’s clinically proven to remove more plaque than a regular toothbrush. The Crisscross bristles are angled at 16 degrees to remove plaque from the right angle. Moreover, this toothbrush is quite gentle on the enamel and gums.

  • Do not forget to floss your teeth:

    There are some places that are still hard to reach, which means you can get to them with Oral-B Essential Floss. The floss has a light wax coating and its shred-resistant texture makes it easier for it to glide between the teeth.

  • Fluoride toothpaste:

    It helps against tooth decay. It fights off germs and builds a protective barrier for your teeth.

  • Mouthwash:

    It reduces the amount of acid in the mouth, re-mineralizes the teeth, and cleans areas that are hard to reach.

  • Drink more water:

    especially after every meal. This does a good job of getting rid of the effects of stickiness and acidic foods and beverages in between brushes.

Dry socket can interfere with the healing process and cause pain and discomfort. It’s advisable that you consult your dentist or oral surgeon when the pain worsens. Once the dry socket is treated, you can use advanced dental products from Oral-B to create a healthy dental routine for strong teeth and gums.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can you treat a dry socket at home?

    To treat a dry socket at home, you’ll need to clean the wound with cool water, squirt the area with saline water, and keep the gauze over the socket. You’ll have to change the gauze every few hours to keep the area clean, or else it increases the risk of developing an infection. However, it’s essential that you consult your dentist before trying to treat a dry socket by yourself.

  2. Who is more likely to get dry socket post tooth extraction?

    People who smoke or use other tobacco-containing products, have poor oral hygiene, use birth control pills, have their wisdom teeth extracted, or have a history of having a dry socket are more likely to develop a dry socket.

  3. What are the complications caused by a dry socket?

    A dry socket doesn’t usually cause complications on its own, but if you leave it unchecked, it can cause delayed healing, infection in the socket, and can even cause the infection to spread to the bone.