Oral surgery complications

Preventing Dry Socket

How Do I Prevent Dry Socket After a Tooth Extraction?

We understand that many patients fear the potential complications from a tooth extraction as much as the extraction itself.  The one that seems to incite the most fear is dry socket.  That’s because it is quite common, and it causes a lot of pain.

What is Dry Socket?

Dry socket is a condition that occurs when the blood clot that should remain in an extraction socket is either dislodged or dissolved.  In proper healing from a tooth extraction, the blood clot fills in the “hole” left by the tooth’s roots and protects the underlying jawbone. 

In dry socket, that blood clot is gone, and the bone underneath is exposed.  In general, it occurs at three to five days after the extraction.  It causes severe pain, a bad smell and a bad taste.  It does not cause swelling, pus or bleeding. 

When a patient seems to be healing well and feeling relatively good after an extraction, and then experiences severe pain several days later, dry socket is the most likely culprit.

What Causes It?

Anything that either pulls the clot out of the socket or causes it to dissolve can lead to dry socket.  A sucking force, like the kind you use to drink through a straw or “pull” on a cigarette, can dislodge the clot.  Certain beverages have chemicals that can break down the clot, so we always advise extraction patients to avoid alcohol and any carbonated drinks.

The difficulty of the extraction also plays a part in the risk for dry socket.  The more difficult an extraction is, the more likely you are to get dry socket.  Unfortunately, this is sometimes unavoidable as some teeth have very long or curved roots.  When the removal of the tooth requires a long time, there is more trauma to the tissues.

Some patients also have a higher risk for dry socket due to health conditions that affect the ability to form blood clots.  Both diabetic patients and smokers have a hard time forming clots because those conditions limit blood flow to the gum tissues. 

How Can I Prevent It?

The most important thing you can do after a tooth extraction is to follow all of your dentist’s instructions as closely as possible.  These instructions will include things like:

  • No drinking through a straw for one week
  • No carbonated beverages (fizzy drinks) for one week
  • No smoking for one week
  • No alcohol for one week
  • Avoid vigorous swishing or spitting for one week
  • (For upper molars and premolars) avoid blowing your nose strongly for one week

You can see that the instructions typically apply to the first week following surgery.  After seven days, the risk of dry socket is very low.  Depending on your particular circumstances, your surgeon may also give you a few other specific instructions.  Diabetic patients need to strictly control blood sugar levels during the healing phase.  Every patient should work diligently to manage health problems because your overall health is important to your body’s ability to heal. 

More Questions about Potential Complications?

Call Empire Dental Specialty Group to schedule a consultation with one of our wonderful oral surgeons.  We can answer any question you have about tooth extractions and their potential complications. Our offices locations in Beavercreek and West Chester are here to provide for all of your oral surgery needs.