how to prevent dry socket

It’s normal for people to not look forward to the discomfort that follows a tooth extraction. Fortunately, this discomfort only lasts a short while before it goes back to normal. However, if your pain persists and gets worse over time, you may be suffering from a condition known as dry socket.

In this article, we are going to look at what a dry socket is, its symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Most importantly, we are going to look at how to prevent dry socket after undergoing a tooth extraction.

What Is A Dry Socket?

Usually, when a tooth is extracted, the space left behind, known as a socket, fills up with a blood clot, which protects the nerves and bones underneath. However, this clot may dissolve or become dislodged a few days after the extraction, causing a dry socket. This, in turn, leaves the nerves and the bone underneath exposed to food, fluid, air and any other thing that gets into the mouth. Dry socket causes severe pain that may last up to 6 days.

Signs And Symptoms Of Dry Socket

  • A whitish dry-looking opening where a tooth has been extracted
  • Experiencing pain that typically begins a day or two after the tooth extraction
  • Experiencing pain that becomes more severe over time and may radiate to your ear
  • Bad breath
  • Unpleasant taste or smell in your mouth

Causes

A dry socket may be caused by;

  • Bacterial factors: A previous infection that is related to periodontal disease may prevent the proper development of a blood clot. The bacteria may also cause the clot to break down, dislodging it.
  • Chemical factors: Smoking significantly increases your risk of a dry socket. This is because the nicotine found in cigarettes decreases blood circulation, preventing the clot from forming after your tooth has been extracted.
  • Mechanical factors: Some activities such as spitting, smoking and using a straw may dislodge a blood clot causing a dry socket. Avoid rinsing repeatedly for the first 24 hours after extractions
  • Physiological factors: Poor blood circulation, hormone fluctuation or a dense jawbone may lead to the development of this painful condition.

Treatments

The treatment for dry socket may include;

Pain Medication

To treat dry socket, you will need an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) such as ibuprofen or aspirin to ease your discomfort. Over the counter pain relievers may not be enough to relieve your pain. In such a case, you are advised to seek medical intervention. Your dentist is better placed to subscribe a stronger pain reliever or anaesthetise the area, depending on the severity of your pain.

Medicated Dressing

Your dentist may pack the pocket with a medicated paste or gauze to provide fast pain relief and promote healing.

Flushing Out The Socket

The dentist will remove any food particles, and debris stuck in the socket that may be causing the pain by flushing the socket out with saline

Self-Care

After the dressing is removed, the dentist may instruct you on how to flush the socket on your own to eliminate debris and promote healing. Your dentist will provide you with all the instructions and items you will need for proper self-care.

Who Is Likely to A Get Dry Socket?

Some people are more likely to get a dry socket after their tooth is pulled out than others. These people include those who;

  • Practice poor oral hygiene
  • Smoke
  • Use birth control pills
  • Those that have their wisdom teeth pulled out
  • Have a history of having a dry socket
  • Have difficult extractions

You are also highly likely to get a dry socket if you use a straw or spit too much after having your tooth extracted.

How To Prevent Dry Socket

Soft Food And Drink

After the extraction, we advise patients to eat only soft foods like yogurt, mashed potatoes or applesauce. You should also avoid salty and spicy foods, nuts, crunchy foods like chips and sticky foods that may get stuck in your socket. You can drink as much water as you want but avoid sugary, caffeinated or alcoholic drinks.

Tobacco Use

Since smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for dry socket, it is advisable that you avoid smoking cigars and other forms of tobacco for a day after the extraction.

Ask About Medication Interactions

If you are on birth control pills, consult your dentist. This is because the hormones may affect your blood’s ability to clot.

Proper Oral Hygiene

how to treat a dry socket - Savina dental clinics malta and gozo

One of the simplest ways to prevent dry socket is to keep your mouth clean. Proper oral hygiene helps prevent germ buildup and any preexisting dental infection from breaking down the clot. Ask your dentist how to brush your teeth after an extraction.

Resting

Plan some time to take a rest after your tooth has been extracted. Avoid strenuous work or exercise or anything that can raise your blood pressure as this may induce further bleeding. Avoid everyday sports or participating in any physical activities that could disturb your mouth. Note that, in some cases, it might take you a few days to recover before you resume your regular routine.

If you still experience any pain or exhaustion, take paracetamol or ibuprofen. Contact your dentist if the pain persists and radiates through your face and in case of swelling, redness, and fever.

What Should You Do If You Suspect You Have A Dry Socket?

If you think you have a dry socket, it is crucial that you call or visit your dentist immediately. Remember that dry socket is treatable and the longer you wait, the more severe your pain may become. Also, trying out home remedies might worsen the condition. Consult your dentist for proper treatment and medication to help it heal faster and ease the pain.

What To Expect During The Dentist Appointment

Your dentist may ask you the following questions to determine the extent of your condition:

  •  Where is your pain located?
  •  Are you experiencing any fever?
  •  When did the severe pain begin?
  •  What pain medication are you taking?
  •  Is the pain medication helping?

If you suspect that you might have a dry socket, it is crucial that you visit your dentist immediately. Make sure to follow your dentist’s guidance as it will go a long way towards healing the condition and preventing future occurrences.

Have You Tried Our Free e-Consultation Service?

If you are worried about a dental related issue, interested in travelling to Malta for a dental holiday or have questions about any of the treatments we offer, please contact us using our new free e-Consultation service. One of our highly-qualified team will respond to your query as soon as possible. Our e-Consultation service is live 9am – 6pm Monday to Friday.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Dr Joseph Xuereb
Dental & Implant Surgeon. Principal
Savina Dental Clinics

Joseph Xuereb
Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.