There are plenty of reasons that you may need to have a tooth or two pulled by a dentist. If a tooth is too damaged to be repaired, or is seriously infected, your dentist may recommend extracting it. Or if you’re having orthodontic work done, such as braces, you may need to remove a few teeth to allow the rest to straighten.
Whatever the reason you may need a tooth extraction, it’s important to do whatever you can to avoid complications to that your mouth can heal properly after the procedure. One common complication of tooth extraction is dry socket. Luckily, only 2-5% of patients get dry socket, but you can reduce that probability even further by being aware of the risk factors and taking steps towards prevention.
What Is Dry Socket?
After the dentist pulls your tooth, a blood clot forms in its place to protect the bone, tissue, and nerves until the gum has healed. Basically the same as scabbing with a cut or scrape on your skin. If this blood clot is dislodged, dissolves, or never forms in the first place, the tissues are left exposed.
Although the cause of dry socket remains unknown, research has indicated that certain factors make it more likely. For example, if you smoke or use tobacco, take oral contraceptives, or have poor oral hygiene, you are significantly more likely to get dry socket after a trip to the dentist for a tooth extraction.
It’s fairly easy to spot dry socket once it develops. The extraction site will be extremely painful within three days of the procedure, the bone may be visible, and there will be a foul taste and smell in the mouth. Pain after an extraction is normal, but that pain should improve over time, not worsen.
If you do develop dry socket, it is easily treated and can be resolved fairly quickly. But the best way to avoid pain and trouble is to prevent dry socket from happening in the first place.
How to Prevent Dry Socket
If you haven’t yet had your tooth extraction performed, you can prevent your future risk of dry socket by quitting smoking or other forms of tobacco, consulting with your dentist about any medications you take that may impact blood clotting, and, of course, ensuring that your dentist is experienced in tooth extraction.
After the extraction, your dentist will recommend a few habits you can get into at home to keep the extraction site clean and healthy during the healing process. You can aid the healing process by avoiding physically strenuous activities that might dislodge the blood clot, tobacco products, and potentially harmful foods and drinks. You’ll want to eat soft foods, drink plenty of water, and avoid hot, alcoholic, and carbonated beverages. And of course, good oral hygiene is essential.
If you take good care of the extraction site and follow your dentist’s instructions, you should heal quickly and without trouble. And if you now have a gap to fill, dental implants can give you back the tooth you just lost!