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How To Prevent Dry Sockets After Tooth Extraction

How To Prevent Dry Sockets After Tooth Extraction

Tooth extractions are sometimes necessary. Severe decay, injury, gum disease, and overcrowding may necessitate tooth removal, but the most common reason is wisdom tooth impaction. 

When your third set of molars, or wisdom teeth, emerges, the teeth may get stuck under the surface of your gums, a painful condition called impaction that puts you at risk for infection. 

Impacted wisdom teeth may also grow at an angle, partially emerge, and push on neighboring teeth. In short, when they become a menace in your mouth, you’re better off without them.

Dr. Caesar SweidanDr. Laura Smith, and our team at St. Tammany Periodontics & Implants can evaluate your teeth and let you know if and when it’s best to have one or more of them extracted to preserve your oral health. 

We ensure your tooth extraction experience is safe and painless here in our office, and we send you home with clear instructions about how to care for the surgical site at home. Here, we explain the potential complication called a dry socket and how to prevent it.

What is a dry socket?

As with any surgery, a tooth extraction leaves a small wound that needs to heal. The place in your gums that once held your tooth is now a hollow socket. Immediately after the procedure, your body begins the healing process and forms a blood clot over the hole, similar to a scab on a skin injury. 

Your goal during the recovery process is to keep that blood clot in position and undisturbed, allowing it to protect the empty socket. If the blood clot becomes damaged or dislodged, the socket is exposed and called a dry socket. 

Not only is dry socket uncomfortable, but it also interferes with and lengthens the healing process. 

You’ll know you’ve lost the blood clot and developed a dry socket if the surgical site reveals white bone rather than a dark spot of blood. You may also notice a foul taste and smell in your mouth. 

How to avoid dry socket

Dry socket isn’t all that common, and only 2-5% of extractions end up with this complication. With proper care, you can avoid a dry socket. We compiled a list of our top tips to give you the best shot at preventing dry sockets.

Don’t spit

After any dental treatment, it’s tempting to spit out blood, saliva, and residual medications, but you should refrain for at least a couple of days. The force of spitting increases the pressure behind the blood clot and might dislodge it. 

If you need to rinse your mouth, gently move water around without swishing vigorously and allow the water to slowly drip out of your mouth.

Skip the straw

Sipping through a straw creates suction in your mouth that can easily pop the blood clot out of place. Drink straight from the rim of a glass and skip straws until your extraction site heals.

Brush around the socket

Your mouth may feel tender for a while, but that’s no excuse to stop brushing your teeth. Bacteria build up quickly when you skip brushing. Keep up your daily routine, but avoid brushing the extraction site until it heals. 

Instead, gently rinse your mouth with a warm saline solution, letting it bathe the extraction site and soothe any discomfort.

Avoid tobacco products

You already know how tobacco affects your lungs, but you may not realize it also slows down your blood flow. Whether you smoke it or chew it, tobacco decreases your body’s ability to heal, lowers your immunity, and interferes with your blood’s ability to deliver essential nutrients to the wound. The sucking action in smoking also can dislodge the blood clot.

Stick with soft foods

For the first few days after your tooth extraction, no one has to tell you that soft foods are best — you won’t feel like chewing until your mouth is back to normal. 

But once the discomfort has subsided and you feel more like yourself, you may be tempted to grab a taco for lunch or snack on some chips. Don’t — hard, crunchy foods can still damage the socket for up to two weeks post-surgery.

If you need a tooth extraction, contact us by phone to schedule an appointment at our Covington or Slidell, Louisiana, office. We ensure a safe and positive experience from your initial visit through your complete healing.

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