When you have a permanent tooth extracted, a blood clot will form to cover and protect the exposed bone and nerve endings left open by the process. If this clot dislodges and comes out, it causes a painful condition known as a dry socket. Dry sockets are the most common complication following a tooth extraction, but that’s small consolation for those who suffer from them. This is not an inevitable situation for most people and there are a wide variety of ways to help prevent it from happening to you.
Symptoms of a Dry Socket
Virtually everyone who has a tooth extracted suffers from some form of discomfort, but the pain from a dry socket is on an entirely different level. Over-the-counter medication won’t relieve this pain; you’ll have to see your dentist for more serious medication. Some of the other symptoms you’ll experience are:
- A partial or total loss of the blood clot. You’ll be able to see white bone at the extraction site
- Extreme pain that begins two or three days after the tooth extraction
- Severe pain that radiates from the socket to your ear, eye, temple, or down your neck
- A bitter or unpleasant taste in your mouth
- A foul odor coming from your mouth that brushing and mouthwash won’t cure
Am I Likely to Develop a Dry Socket?
Some people develop dry sockets more often than others, no matter how much care they take after the extraction. If you smoke or use tobacco, take oral contraceptives, or have had a dry socket in the past, you’re more likely to develop one in the future.
In addition, those who don’t follow the dentist’s instructions for aftercare are more likely to develop a dry socket, as well as those having an infected tooth pulled before the antibiotics have completely killed off the infection.
Preventing a Dry Socket After Tooth Extraction
Before you have a tooth extracted, you can help the process by quitting tobacco use or at least stopping it for a few days before the procedure. Post-procedure care is the most important factor in whether you develop a dry socket, though. Keep up with avoiding tobacco as well as following these tips.
- Managing the Pain. On the first day after your procedure, put cold packs on the outside of your face. For the next few days, switch to warm packs, which will help to decrease swelling and pain.
- Your Active Life. After your tooth extraction, spend the rest of the day relaxing. This is the perfect time to catch up on that show you’ve always wanted to binge. Your dentist will let you know about resuming normal activities, but you should avoid most sports for the next week or so.
- Eating. Eat only soft foods at first, like yogurt, applesauce, or gelatin. Avoid really hot or cold foods and keep all foods on the non-recovering side of your mouth. When the pain begins to subside, start with semi-soft foods, but avoid chewing on the side of your mouth with the extraction.
- Drinking. On the first day after surgery, drink as much water as you can. This will help to eliminate the anesthesia drugs from your system as well as helping to keep infection away. For the next week or so, avoid caffeine, alcohol, carbonation, or very hot drinks.
- Dental Care. Brush your teeth on the non-surgical side for the first 24 hours, along with gently rinsing. For the next week, gently rinse your mouth with a salt water solution several times a day. Check with your dentist for any other aftercare directions she may have for you.
When to See Your Dentist
Some pain is normal after a tooth extraction, but you can generally deal with it using over the counter pain relievers. If you’re suffering from extreme pain that normal pain relievers don’t touch, contact your dentist immediately. She needs to monitor your healing progress as well as helping you with stronger pain relief.