When you have your wisdom teeth removed, you know to plan on a few days of downtime and having lots of soft foods (hooray for ice cream!) on hand. But did you know that you should also be on the lookout for signs of a condition called dry socket? Removing your wisdom teeth –– or any tooth –– can put you at risk of experiencing dry socket. Dry socket from wisdom teeth removal can be very painful, and while it can be treated, we suggest doing all you can to prevent developing the condition in the first place.

Read on to discover what causes the condition and learn how to prevent a dry socket after your or your child’s wisdom tooth removal.

What Causes Dry Socket

Removing adult teeth suddenly exposes the bone or nerve in the empty socket. When the socket heals properly, a clot forms inside the empty socket to protect the exposed tissue. The socket can become prone to infection, though, if something is done to dislodge the clot or if it fails to form in the first place. This is what is known as a dry socket.

Unfortunately, removing a tooth isn’t always a pain-free process. Your dentist or dental surgeon will make you comfortable during the procedure, but when the local anesthesia wears off you may feel discomfort. Some pain is expected after a tooth extraction, especially for wisdom teeth.

Dry socket goes beyond the scope of what would be considered normal pain following a tooth extraction. If the pain begins to worsen, radiates toward the ear, or if you develop a fever, you may have dry sockets and should contact your dentist or dental surgeon immediately. Other symptoms of dry socket include bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, and a dry opening where the blood clot should be.

A few factors may put you at a higher risk of developing a dry socket. You might be at higher risk of experiencing dry socket if you do the following:

  • Use hormonal birth control
  • Have experienced a history of dry sockets in the past
  • Use tobacco or smoke cigarettes
  • Take medication that thins the blood
  • Have a history of poor dental health or hygiene

While these lifestyle factors put you at a higher risk of a dry socket, a dry socket can be caused by anything that dislodges the blood clot from the socket before it has a chance to fully heal. Sucking on a straw, food lodged in the site, and things like bad hygiene, spitting, coughing, and sneezing can cause dry socket.

Preventing Dry Sockets

Because so many factors are at play when it comes to dry socket, it’s especially important to closely follow your dentist or surgeon’s post-op instructions after having any teeth extracted. In addition to referring to your dentist’s surgical instructions, consider following some of these tips to prevent dry socket:

Avoid Using Straws and Tobacco Products

When it comes to recovering from wisdom tooth extraction, straws and tobacco use are big no-nos. The air from the straw and the motion your mouth makes to drink from one can risk causing dry socket, and you’ll want to avoid drinking from a straw for at least one week following surgery.

Smoking also makes you much more susceptible to experiencing dry socket. If you can’t quit smoking prior to your surgery, consider using nicotine patches to give your mouth time to fully heal.

Eat the Right Foods

Remember how we mentioned that eating ice cream is a perk of recovering from wisdom tooth extraction? Eating soft foods will also go a long way in helping prevent dry socket. Following a tooth extraction of any kind, stick to food that’s soft and doesn’t require much chewing. Stock up on broth, mashed potatoes, ice cream, applesauce, yogurt, mashed beans, and smoothies prior to your surgery. But remember: straws are off limits. Use a spoon to eat your favorite soft foods.

Keep the Area Clean

You might be nervous to keep up with your oral hygiene habits immediately following a tooth extraction, but continuing to brush your teeth twice a day will help keep harmful bacteria away. Follow your dentist’s instructions for brushing your teeth after surgery, and consider trying a saltwater rinse once a day.

Let Your Body Heal

Removing your wisdom teeth takes a toll on your body. Give your body the rest it needs to help heal and recover. Try not to talk more than you need to for the first 24 hours after surgery, and build in plenty of time to sleep as you recuperate.

Be sure to contact your dentist or dental surgeon if you suspect dry socket following your tooth extraction. Here at Endodontic Specialists of Colorado, your health and well-being is important to us. Give us a call to schedule an evaluation and learn how we can help restore your smile!