If you extract a tooth, blood will clot on the extraction site and kick-start the healing process. In some cases, however, the blood clot fails, and the extraction site remains hollow and dry — hence the term dry socket. A dry socket causes pain, delays the healing process, and increases the risk of infection. Below are some of the risk factors and prevention tips for a dry socket.
Elevated levels of estrogen increase the risk of a dry socket. Thus, you face a high risk of a dry socket if you are female or you are on estrogen medication (such as oral contraceptives). The theory is that the estrogen interferes with the normal healing process and prevents blood clotting.
Time your extraction for a period with reduced estrogen levels. If you are on medication, wait until you are done with your dosage. Women should schedule the extraction for the last week of their mensuration cycles when their estrogen levels are low.
Tobacco is bad for your oral and overall health. Tobacco increases the risk of a dry socket in several ways:
- The chemicals in tobacco can contaminate the wound.
- You might dislodge the blood clot when you suck on a cigarette.
- The chemicals in tobacco can restrict blood flow to the wound site.
Ideally, you shouldn’t smoke at all. At the very least, you should avoid the substance a few days before and after the extraction.
Your dentist will give you specific instructions on how to take care of your teeth, specifically of the extraction site, during your consultation. You risk a dry socket if you don’t follow the instructions to the letter. For example, the dentist may tell you to:
- Wait a day before you brush or floss your teeth so that you don’t dislodge the blood clot
- Brush and floss every day after the initial wait period (favor the wound until it heals)
- Avoid sticky or hard foods that might dislodge your blood clot
- Avoid sugary foods that increase the risk of infection
- Avoid sucking motions (such as straw use) immediately after the extraction (sucking motions can dislodge the blood clot)
- Avoid strenuous activities that might prevent blood clotting
Follow the instructions so that the clot remains in place and you keep infections at bay.
A blood clot is more likely to form in a healthy wound compared to an infected would. Your dentist may give you antibiotic treatments to reduce the risk of infection. You also have a role to play. Specifically, you should:
- Maintain good oral hygiene (brush and floss daily once the dentist permits)
- Limit sugary snacks
- Rinse your mouth with antiseptic mouthwash (after 24 hours after the surgery)
Consult your dentist for help if you suspect an infection, for example, if you experience prolonged post-extraction pain.
A surgical extraction, where the dentist cuts into your gums or jawbone, increases your risk of a dry socket. The high risk is due to the tissue damage, bleeding, and increased risk of infection that all surgeries carry.
You might need a surgical extraction if your tooth is weak, impacted, fractured, or has complex roots. You can control some of these things. For example, if your dentist advises you to extract a tooth, schedule the extraction before the tooth suffers damage and necessitates a surgical extraction.
If you need to extract a tooth, get an experienced and caring dentist to do it. Accent Dental has a team of skilled, experienced, and compassionate dentists to help you deal with all your dental problems. Contact us for an appointment so that we can help you care for your teeth.