What Is A Dry Socket & How Does It Happen?

Tooth Extraction

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What Is A Dry Socket & How Does It Happen?

What Is A Dry Socket & How Does It Happen?

Most of us hope that getting a tooth pulled is the end of our misery in bearing tooth pain or a tooth infection. However, a dental condition called dry socket can occur during tooth extraction recovery. Learn more about this painful condition and the importance of following the proper post-extraction care.

What is a dry socket?

A dry socket or alveolar osteitis happens when the blood fails to clot, or the blood clot is dislodged or dissolved in the extraction site and exposes the bone and nerves. It is a painful dental condition where the pain can radiate to the cheeks or half of the face. 

Usually, the pain due to your sore gums and jaw from a tooth extraction lasts about a day or two. With a dry socket, the pain becomes worse and lasts for 5 to 6 days after the extraction.

A dry socket is a common complication after tooth extraction. The blood clot in the extraction site serves as the protective layer of the wound as the bone and nerves heal. It supports the regeneration of new soft tissues and bone in the extraction site. 

In the case of a dry socket, the recovery from the extraction can’t progress due to the absence of a blood clot. The extraction site stays exposed to bacteria and food debris which can lead to an infection. The exposure of the bone may trigger a bacterial infection which can spread deeper into the jawbone. 

Some patients are more susceptible to dry sockets than others due to several risk factors. Patients may not experience bleeding, but the severe pain can cause problems sleeping for several days. 

Causes

Researchers believe that the failure of the blood to clot is due to bacterial contamination or trauma in the extraction site. The contamination can be mainly due to improper post-extraction care or contaminants from the water or food you consume. 

Poking the extracted site with your tongue or accidentally pushing it may also disrupt the clotting process or dislodge the blood clot that is already forming.

Symptoms

Aside from extreme pain several days after the tooth extraction, here are the other symptoms of a dry socket:

  • Visible bone in the extraction site
  • Unpleasant or metallic taste in your mouth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Radiating pain to your eyes, neck, ear, or temple

Who is more at risk for dry socket?

Some patients have a higher chance of developing a dry socket due to their health conditions or lifestyle habits, such as:

  • Smoking: The sucking action while smoking may dislodge the formation of a blood clot in the extraction site. Also, nicotine in tobacco products can reduce blood flow and cause impaired healing of the damaged tissues.

  • Contraceptive use: Contraceptives increase estrogen levels in women and can slow down wound healing.

  • Poor oral hygiene and post-extraction care: Failure to follow your dentist’s post-extraction home care can lead to a dry socket.

  • History of dry socket in another tooth: You are more likely to experience dry socket again if you have experienced it during a previous tooth extraction.

  • Wisdom teeth extraction: Wisdom tooth removal has a 30% chance of developing a dry socket. 

  • Tooth or gum infection in the extraction site: The presence of bacteria from the extracted tooth or gums can make you more susceptible to a dry socket.

Avoid smoking to prevent dry socket.

Helpful tips to prevent dry socket after tooth extraction

The pain due to tooth extraction is inevitable. However, you can save yourself from a different level of pain caused by a dry socket by doing the following steps:

  1. Avoid smoking during your recovery period: Work with your dentist on how you can control your smoking habit for a week after your tooth extraction.

  2. Keep up with your post-extraction home care: Be gentle with yourself as your mouth recovers from your tooth extraction. Gargle salt water 24 hours after the extraction, and brush and floss twice a day. Take your prescribed medications on time, especially the antibiotics. 

  3. Inform your dentist about your other medications: Let your dentist know if you are taking any maintenance medication or contraceptives that may affect your wound healing.

  4. Avoid spitting or drinking from a straw: While it is easy to keep the food and juice off the extraction site using a straw, the sucking action can disrupt the clotting process. Instead, you can chew on the other side of your mouth when eating your food. 


You may also rinse your mouth immediately after eating to prevent any food debris from getting to the extraction site. 

Possible complications of the dry socket if left untreated

The infection involved in a dry socket can spread to your jaw bone, which causes a chronic bone infection called osteomyelitis. The wound healing can take longer, and so does the extreme pain. You will also become more prone to experience a dry socket again in your future tooth extraction. 

Let Aten & Garofalo Dentistry check your condition before it gets worse

If you notice that the pain is getting worse in the extracted site, it’s best to visit your dentist as soon as possible. The treatment for a dry socket may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antibacterial oral rinse or gel
  • Antiseptic solution for cleaning the wound
  • Cleaning and application of medicated dressing or gauze
  • Pain medications

You don’t have to experience the extreme throbbing pain brought on by a dry socket. Let our dental team check your condition so you can achieve a safe and speedy recovery. Aten & Garofalo Dentistry offers comprehensive dental treatments in Ballantyne, NC. Schedule an appointment now and prevent any complications. 

Do’s and Don’ts After Tooth Extraction

Do's and Don'ts After Tooth Extraction

Going through a tooth extraction can be a breeze since you are under a local anesthetic. However, it is a different story when the pain blockers start to wear off. You will be dealing with bleeding gums and a sore jaw for the next few days.

The key to a swift recovery after a tooth extraction is to allow your body to rest and avoid certain activities that can do more harm to the extracted area. 

As a trusted dentist in Ballantyne, Aten Garofalo & Dentistry would like to guide you in achieving a fast and safe recovery by sharing these post tooth extraction reminders.

When is a tooth extraction necessary?

Dentists always do their best to preserve your natural tooth. The quality of our natural teeth is unique and irreplaceable, so extracting them is usually left as the last option. The common reasons for tooth extraction are as follows:

  • Severe tooth decay: When bacteria have already affected the tooth pulp and damaged a large part of your tooth, your tooth becomes beyond repair. A tooth filling is no longer a viable option and may cause more harm than good.
  • Preparation for braces: Your dentist may need to remove a tooth or two before your braces treatment if you have overcrowded teeth. Tooth extraction helps create ample space in your jaw for your teeth to move during orthodontic treatment.
  • Overcrowding prevention: Tooth extraction is the best solution to prevent the impact of overcrowded teeth on your oral health, such as cleaning difficulties and crooked teeth. 
  • Severe trauma: Emergency cases that severely deformed and damaged your oral and facial structure may require tooth extraction and surgery. 
  • Impacted wisdom tooth: When the developing wisdom tooth doesn’t have enough space in your jaw, it can push its neighboring tooth and cause other complications. Therefore, wisdom tooth removal is necessary before it causes an infection or inflammation below the gum line. 

Do's and Don'ts after your tooth extraction

Do’s and Don’ts after your tooth extraction

The gums and jaw are usually sore after a tooth extraction, especially with molar teeth. The deep parts of the gums and jaw become exposed to all sorts of foreign bodies like food debris and bacteria that put you at risk for complications.

For a speedy recovery without any complications, you must take care of the affected area and make some temporary lifestyle adjustments. Otherwise, you will only prolong your healing, or worse, it can lead to a more serious health condition. 

Pain management and bleeding control

After your tooth extraction, the goal is to prevent excessive bleeding and encourage blood clotting. The pain can also start to creep in, so you need to do the following immediately after the extraction:

  • Apply an ice pack on the cheek next to the affected area to encourage blood clotting and to manage the pain and swelling.
  • Try not to remove the cotton or gauze on the affected gums and apply some pressure on it for a few hours.
  • Try not to do any strenuous activities that can increase your heart rate since it can cause excessive bleeding. Take a rest for a whole day after your extraction. It would be best to take a leave at work or school to focus on full-on recovery for a day. 
  • Take the prescribed pain relievers on time. 

If the pain didn’t subside or became worse within two to three days after your tooth extraction, you must contact your dentist immediately

Diet and lifestyle adjustments after tooth extraction

Food debris can clog into the extracted area and possibly cause an infection in the affected gums. Putting too much pressure on your mouth can also affect the healing process of your gums and reopen the healing wound. Here are the adjustments that you need to make a week after your extraction:

  • Elevate your head when you sleep to prevent the blood from pooling in your head which can prolong your healing.
  • Eat soft foods that don’t require too much chewing, such as:
    • Soup
    • Mashed potatoes
    • Oatmeal
    • Pudding
    • Scrambled eggs
    • Yogurt
    • Pancakes
    • Applesauce
    • Smoothies 
  • Consume cold food and drinks for a week to encourage blood clotting, soothe the pain, and prevent swelling.
  • Avoid hot food and beverages since it can dilate the blood vessels and cause further bleeding. 
  • Avoid disturbing the affected area and dislodging the formation of blood clots with rinsing, spitting, or using a straw during the first 24 hours
  • Refrain from touching the affected area using your tongue to prevent irritating the recovering gums. 

What to do if food gets into the extracted area

It is common for food to get stuck in the extracted area. Removing stuck food debris in the holes in your gums should be as gentle as possible. Your regular toothbrush can be too abrasive. Instead, you can use the following alternatives:

  • Saltwater rinse: Gently let the saltwater rinse flush the food debris without putting too much force. The goal is to remove the food debris without dislodging the blood clot in the extracted area.
  • Warm water using a sterile syringe: Flush the food debris at an angle using the gush of water from the syringe. 
  • Clean cotton swab: If all else fails, you can use a clean cotton swab and gently push the food debris out of the hole in your gums. 

Oral hygiene post tooth extraction 

During your recovery from an extraction, you must continue your oral hygiene to protect your remaining teeth and gums. It also helps prevent infection on the extracted site. Here are some ways on how to keep up on your oral hygiene during your recovery:

  • Continue brushing and flossing your teeth but skip the extraction site. Brushing is too abrasive for the tender gums and soft tissues and can cause bleeding. 
  • After 2 to 3 hours, you may change the gauze as often as needed. The first gauze secures the open wound and prevents continuous blood flow from your nerves and blood vessels. So, you must not remove it for a few hours.
  • After 24 hours, rinse your mouth with saltwater for disinfection. 

Post-extraction complications

Post tooth extraction complications to watch out for

Pain, bleeding, and swelling are the expected impact of tooth extraction on patients. However, there are possible complications that may occur that you should monitor and tell your dentist about immediately:

  • Uncontrollable bleeding and swelling: If the bleeding and swelling don’t stop after 8 to 12 hours, call your dentist as soon as possible. Excessive bleeding is called post-extraction bleeding or (PEB). If untreated, it can cause more complications like severe blood loss. 
  • Bone infection: Osteomyelitis or bone infection is a complication that happens when the infection from the open wound spreads to the surrounding bone structure. 
  • Nerve problems: Damage to the inferior alveolar nerve is one of the uncommon complications after tooth extraction. It can cause temporary numbness on the lips, chin, or cheeks.  
  • Dry socket:  If the extracted site doesn’t show any signs of a blood clot after a few hours, you might be suffering from a dry socket. Due to the prolonged exposure of the nerves and tissues, you become more susceptible to infection and other severe complications.

Getting a tooth extraction in Ballantyne, NC

It takes two to take care of your tooth extraction. Your dentist will try his/her best to keep you safe, but you must take over taking care of the extracted site at home. 

If you are experiencing any post-extraction complications, let our dental team help you get the relief you deserve. Aten & Garofalo Dentistry provides dental restorations and tooth extractions in Ballantyne, NC. Schedule an appointment now to learn more about the status of your oral health.

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