Tooth extraction becomes the only option when a tooth is beyond the scope of repair by restoration or any other similar treatment. Partially erupted wisdom tooth is also a case which requires extraction of the tooth. Ideally, the extraction of any tooth should be uneventful, but at times the patient might have a dry socket condition. Dry socket happens after permanent tooth extraction where blood is not able to clot or gets dislodge before the healing process could take place. The most important dry socket prevention technique is to follow your dentist instructions to perfection after you go for tooth extraction.

Only 2-5% of people develop dry socket after tooth-extraction where the clot dislodges after 2-3 days creating excruciating pain. This will lead to an infection which might take 5-6 days to cure (1).

Let’s see how to prevent dry socket after tooth extraction in detail.

What is a dry socket?

Dry socket is a painful dental condition. Usually, it happens after the extraction of a permanent adult tooth. This dental condition occurs when the blood clot does not happen at the extraction site or clot dislodges before the healing process could formalize.

Dislodgement of clot leaves the bone and nerve exposed, which further causes infection and severe pain. Dry socket prevention can be done by following a few precautions post tooth extraction.

Cause of dry socket

The exact cause of dry socket is not known. Suspected causes are bacterial contamination, difficult extraction, and carelessness in following the precautions by the patient post tooth extraction.

Some people are at a higher risk of getting dry socket after tooth extraction. They are –

  • People who have poor oral hygiene.
  • People who smoke.
  • People who have had a difficult extraction (more so in case of wisdom tooth extraction).
  • People who have an infection around the extracted tooth.
  • People who use oral contraceptive pills.
  • People who have had a dry socket on previous cases of extraction.
  • People who don’t follow proper precautions after tooth-extraction (2).

Symptoms of dry socket

  • Signs and symptoms include severe pain after 2-3 days of extraction.
  • You might notice visible bone in the empty socket devoid of the blood clot (full or partial dislodgement) (3).
  • Pain usually radiates to the eye or neck or ear on the same side as the extracted tooth.
  • The foul odor might come from your mouth.
  • You might feel the unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Diagnosis of dry socket

If the pain at the tooth-extraction site prevails for 2-3 days then visit your dentist as it could be a dry socket. The dentist will examine your mouth to look for the absence of blood clot in the tooth socket and exposed bone to arrive at a diagnosis of dry socket.

Also, an x-ray will be taken to rule out any other condition and to check if any tooth fragment was left behind.

Dry socket prevention

Taking care of a few things will help in dry socket prevention (4).

Before surgery

Visit a dentist who has experience in uneventful tooth extractions. Ask your friends for recommendations if possible. If you are a smoker, stop smoking before the surgery since smoking increases the risk of dry socket.

If you are on any medication, inform your dentist. Certain medications increase the risk of dry socket by slowing the healing process. The antibiotics which are prescribed post-tooth-extraction can help in preventing any infection.

After surgery

Your dentist should explain you everything post-surgery such as how long it would take for complete healing and what precautions you need to follow. Some of them could be like taking rest for one complete day, avoiding a rigorous exercise regime as it could dislodge the clot, etc.

You must follow all suggestions seriously.

To manage pain

Take prescribed medicines and follow it with cold packs outside the face on the day of extraction and warm packs from next day onwards. Cold and warm packs will help to lessen pain and swelling.

Drink and eat cold items

Avoid spicy and hot beverages and food for at least a week. You may eat warm food after a day. It is also recommended to leave caffeinated or carbonated beverages for a few days. Post-extraction, drink a lot of cold liquids and eat ice cream or anything cold.

Avoid using a straw for a week, since the sucking on the straw might dislodge the blood clot. Avoid chewing on the side of extraction or biting too hard. Eat soft food and do not chew on your tongue or bite lips while still under the effect of anesthesia.

An hour after surgery, you may rinse your mouth very gently but avoid brushing for 24hrs pot extraction. Also for 2-3 days brush very gently. Avoid the extraction area. Just rinse gently.

Do not smoke or use products containing tobacco- the nicotine in tobacco could slow down the healing process. Also, smoking may cause dislodgement of the clot.

Treatment of dry socket

Treatment of dry socket is primarily aimed at reducing symptoms, especially pain.

  • Your tooth socket will be flushed to clear any food debris which might cause further infection or increase the pain.
  • Your dentist might pack the area with medicated dressing, depending on severity. Also, the dentist will decide how frequently that dressing need to change.
  • Normal pain-killers might not help alleviate the pain. So, you will have to take prescription painkillers.
  • After removing the dressing, you will have to self-clean the area and take care that food debris doesn’t deposit.
  • Within 5 to 6 days, the pain will subside and healing occurs. You must keep visiting your dentist till the condition heals completely.

Final words on dry socket prevention

Dry socket is highly unlikely if you follow the instructions of your dentist to perfection. All you need to do is to give up bad habits such as smoking and alcohol for at least 14 days from the date of tooth extraction.

Following your dentist instructions soon after tooth extraction is the best dry socket prevention technique. Avoid smoking, hot & spicy food
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