When you have a tooth removed, you develop a blood clot over the removal spot to protect and heal your underlying bone and nerve endings. This clot should stay in place until your gums heal and your mouth is back to normal. Sometimes the clot can become dislodged causing you to experience the painful complication known as a dry socket.
Dry socket is uncomfortable and delays healing. It’s important to try and avoid it. Dry socket usually occurs because something moves or dissolves the blood clot from the socket. Sometimes dry socket occurs when you never develop the blood clot to begin with.
Tips for preventing dry socket
1. Avoid straws: The suction movement of air and cheek muscles when you use a straw may dislodge your blood clot. You should avoid using straws after your extraction.
2. Avoid smoking and tobacco: People who smoke and use tobacco are at a much higher risk of developing dry socket after tooth extraction. The fast inhalation of smoking can dislodge your blood clot. This applies to smoking anything at all, not just cigarettes. That’s because chemicals in other tobacco products may prevent healing and cause an infection.
*If you plan to resume tobacco use after your surgery, ask your dentist or oral surgeon when you’re allowed to start.
3. Soft food: The first day after your surgery, eat only soft foods. Avoid nuts, seeds, crunchy foods such as chips, and sticky foods which might get stuck in your socket.
Caring for the tooth extraction site
Follow your doctor’s instructions on proper oral care after surgery or extractions in order to have a successful recovery.
- Keep your mouth clean with a saltwater rinse a few times a day. *Be careful when rinsing with saltwater as to not swish too vigorously and not to spit out because that could disrupt the clot. We usually tell patients to just gently rinse and then lean over the sink and let the water gently come out rather than spit it out.*
- Brush teeth very gently.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid food, beverages, and activities that threaten your blood clot.
- Rest from strenuous work as long as possible.
- Treat swelling externally by holding an ice pack to your cheek.
What to Do If a Dry Sockets Develops
If you develop a dry socket, you should call our practice as soon as possible. When calling, be sure to inform us that believe you have a dry socket so we can give you tips to keep you comfortable while we arrange for your visit. You will need to return to our practice so that our oral surgeon can make an incision over the empty tooth socket so that a new clot will form.