Within a few days to a couple of weeks after a tooth extraction, your mouth should return to feeling normal and pain-free. Unfortunately, some patients encounter a rare complication known as dry socket. This problem can slow down your recovery and cause serious pain. What is dry socket? How can you prevent it? If you do develop it, what treatments are available? Continue reading to find the answers.
What Is Dry Socket?
After a tooth is extracted, a blood clot should begin to form. The clot’s job is to protect the empty socket. It plays an important role in your body’s healing process. Unfortunately, circumstances can arise that prevent the blood clot from forming. It could also be dislodged. Such situations amount to the condition known as dry socket.
Dry socket can be extremely painful, creating discomfort on the same level as what you might experience with a severe toothache.
The risk of developing dry socket is at its peak 3 – 5 days after an extraction, but it can happen at any time before the mouth is completely healed.
Preventing Dry Socket
Fortunately, most cases of dry socket can be prevented via some simple precautions. Here are a few tips that you should implement during your recovery:
- Do not smoke. According to one estimate, smokers have three times the risk of dry socket as nonsmokers.
- Do not use a drinking straw. The suction action could dislodge the blood clot.
- Do not touch your extraction site with your tongue or fingers. You might accidentally interfere with the blood clot.
- Keep up with oral hygiene, but do not directly brush your extraction site. Wait at least 3 – 4 days before you start gently cleaning the area.
- Eat soft foods. Crunchy, hard, and tough foods should be avoided until you are fairly well-recovered.
- Do not spit vigorously. Instead, you should swallow extra saliva or use a tissue to absorb it.
What if You Develop Dry Socket?
If you start to experience severe pain at your extraction site, or you look in the mirror and see that your tooth socket appears empty, you should contact your dentist or oral surgeon right away. They can clean the area and use a medicated dressing to ease your discomfort. You might need to periodically change the dressing and take pain medication. With proper care, dry socket usually heals within a week to 10 days.
Dry socket can be a worrisome complication. Fortunately, it can usually be prevented!
Meet the Practice
Drs. Steve Koo and William Shepard proudly provide tooth extractions and other complex oral surgery services in our Katy/Cypress office. If you have questions about what to expect while recovering from tooth removal, we are ready to speak with you. Contact our team at 832-353-1100.