Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 14-11-2019
Visiting the dentist isn’t a favoured pastime, but it’s vital to healthy gums and teeth. Sometimes a dentist visit requires the removal of a tooth. Some causes for tooth extraction include:
- Tooth decay
- Impacted teeth
- Orthodontic procedures
Extractions can be simple or advanced. The cause of tooth removal and your current medical state will dictate the type of procedure required. While most tooth removal procedures go smoothly, they can lead to a condition called dry socket.
The term dry socket sounds more like something in a mechanic’s toolbox than in your mouth, but it’s a painful dental condition. Here’s what you should know about dry socket.
What is Dry Socket?
When adult teeth are removed, the root goes along with it. This leaves a deep cavity in the gums where the tooth resided. The human body is equipped to handle this wound by developing a clot. The clot keeps nerve endings and exposed bone from bacteria, plaque, and food particles that enter your mouth. The developing blood clot remains in the removal site until your gums are healed. Or, at least, it should remain in the removal site. Sometimes, the clot slips out of place, leaving the opening unprotected. This causes dry socket.
Dry socket, also referred to as Alveolar Osteitis, is painful and delays healing time. It occurs in approximately 1 to 5 percent of tooth extractions. Risk increases if the tooth being removed is the mandibular third molar.
To Prevent Dry Socket, Avoid These Things
Sipping Drinks Through Straws – Physical disruption of the tooth recess by way of pressure in the mouth can dislodge the clot. Sipping drinks through a straw is one way this occurs. The combination of mouth shape and sucking creates a vacuum action in your mouth, which inadvertently pulls the clot from its resting place. If you’re concerned about dry socket, avoid straws and opt for careful sips until your gums have healed.
Eating Sticky or Excessively Soft Foods – Another activity rife with clot dislodging power is the chewing of excessively soft foods. Unlike firm foods, which hold their shape when chewed, soft foods press into gaps and openings. As you continue to chew and swallow, the vacuum effect takes hold again, forcing the clot to move and halting the healing process. Sticky, soft foods, which are sure to get stuck in your teeth, are a definite no-no directly following a tooth extraction. Your dentist will likely give you a list of foods and drinks to avoid maintaining healing.
Smoking Cigarettes – Smoking cigarettes is never good for your health, but it’s especially problematic after a tooth extraction. The action of drawing out on a cigarette mirrors the straw sucking effect. Once again, the clot becomes dislodged and affects chances for healing. Cigarettes are also full of chemicals, tar, and nicotine, which are known to cause tooth decay and gum disease.
A study published in the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery noted that subjects healing from tooth extraction were negatively impacted by cigarette smoke.
Aggressive Brushing of the Teeth – Brushing your teeth is important, but brushing too hard could be an issue. Excessive or aggressive teeth brushing irritates your gums, especially after surgery. Your dentist will supply directions on teeth cleaning and maintenance during the duration of healing. Most suggest very careful brushing on surrounding teeth and avoiding the extraction area altogether. Your dentist may also suggest you avoid mouthwash rinsing for the first 48-hours to reduce the risk of dislodging the clot.
Ignoring Dental Hygiene – Brushing too much is problematic, but not brushing enough could also be an indicator that dry socket will occur. Dental hygiene and healthy gums are important to the healing process following any oral procedure. This includes tooth removal. If your gums aren’t healthy, they may not properly form a clot at all, or the clot may be dislodged due to infection. Regular teeth cleanings and visits to your dentist helps maintain adequate oral hygiene and reduces the change for dry socket.
Some Prescription Medications (With Permission from a Doctor) – Research shows that some prescription medications lead to dry socket. One such drug is the birth control pill. The reason could be due to hormone changes in the body. Milltown Dental doesn’t recommend the disruption of any prescription medication without the consent of a medical doctor. If you’re nervous that current prescriptions could dislodge a clot, ask your physician whether halting medication might help prior to the procedure.
What to Do if You Suspect Dry Socket?
Upon the realization that pain has intensified following an extraction, visit your dentist as soon as possible. You may not realize that dry socket is causing the pain, but a quick glance at the extraction wound will tell your dentist what they need to know.
Your dentist will treat the gums, cleaning any food or debris which has become lodged in the socket. They will then dress the gap to restrict airflow and future food from gathering there. Although medication isn’t usually prescribed for dry socket, an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen may be suggested.
Following the removal of the dressing your dentist has applied, he or she may supply instructions to flush the socket. Water or saline solution can help relieve dryness, which increases pain and discomfort against open nerve endings and exposed bone in the socket.
Flushing involves carefully swishing liquid in the mouth, or gently squirting liquid into the affected area. At this point, the clot has already been lost, and there’s no risk of dislodging. Still, your dentist might recommend being extremely gentle when you flush the extraction site to prevent further discomfort.
Ask a Dentist
We hope this blog has been informative. At Milltown Dental, we’re proud to serve the residents of Milton, Ontario, and we are always happy to answer questions. If you’re curious about dry socket, avoiding dry socket, or require tooth extraction, give us a call. You can also browse our selection of dental services through the Milltown Dental website.