The phrase alone—“dry sockets”—is enough to leave many people with goosebumps. Stories of dry sockets were the stuff of urban legends amongst high schoolers who’d gotten their wisdom teeth extracted. We were warned about them as teens, and now as adults the fear persists. Over time, the likelihood that you or someone you know has experienced complications from a tooth extraction has undoubtedly gone up, and your fears of dry sockets are likely more founded than they were at 14. Today, we’re addressing these fears and outlining some of the most important things you need to know about avoiding this painful condition.
What is a dry socket?
First things first: a dry socket, or alveolar osteitis, is a complication that happens after tooth extraction and it can be quite painful. Normally after a tooth is removed, a blood clot forms in the place where the tooth had been. This protects the nerves, tissue, and bone beneath the wound from being exposed to the air. Sometimes, this clot doesn’t form or is dislodged, painfully exposing sensitive parts of the mouth to the air and increasing risk of infection.
How can I avoid dry sockets?
- Avoid Smoking and Chewing Tobacco. Dry sockets are just another item to add to the list of reasons to avoid tobacco products. The likelihood of tobacco users to develop a dry socket is actually 3x higher than those who don’t smoke or chew! The sucking action of smoking a cigarette or pipe can dislodge a blood clot and cause a dry socket. It’s recommended that smokers cut back significantly on smoking before and after oral surgery. If reducing use or quitting isn’t an option for you, it’s still important to avoid smoking for at least 48 hours after surgery and smoking as gently as possible when you resume the practice. Nicotine patches can help cravings during this time.
- Don’t Use Straws. The sucking motion and suction created when using a straw can cause a clot to become dislodged. It’s recommended that anyone who has had a tooth extracted should wait at least a week to start using straws again.
- Eat Soft Foods. The day after surgery, your food should be limited to soft things like applesauce, mashed potatoes, and yogurt. As days go by, you can gradually introduce more solid foods, but be sure to avoid nuts, chips, or anything too crunchy as it may become stuck in the socket.
- Keep Up Your Oral Hygiene Routine. Keeping your mouth clean will keep your mouth healthy! If you’re diligent with your oral health regimen following a tooth extraction, bacteria are less likely to infect your wound as it heals.
Dry sockets are a scary prospect after having a tooth extracted, but with proper care and diligent oral maintenance, the likelihood of developing one is significantly lowered. As with all health concerns, knowledge is power and the more you know about any procedure, the more likely you are to have a successful and pain-free experience afterward.
If you still have questions about tooth extraction and dry sockets, give us a call at Caputo Dental in Naperville today!