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The Symptoms of Dry Socket and How to Prevent It

April 14, 2016
Posted By: Dr. Russell D. Mann

A dry socket occurs when the blood clot has fallen out of your tooth socket after an extraction. The symptoms of a dry socket are not fun—they can be more painful than the extraction itself.
After you have a tooth extracted, there will be bleeding. A blood clot will form where your tooth once was. It sounds pretty gross, but that blood clot is the first step in the healing of your gums. If the blood clot isn’t there, the nerves in your jaw will be exposed. It is just as bad as it sounds. Anything, even air, can feel extremely painful on an exposed nerve.

The symptoms of a dry socket include pain that shoots up towards your ears, and a foul smell coming from the extraction site. You may even have a bad taste in your mouth. The pain will usually start about two days after the extraction, and when you look at your extraction site, you’ll see an open hole where the tooth once was.

How Do You Prevent Dry Socket?

Take it Easy

Physical activity can knock that blood clot out of place. You should take some time off from exercising and just plain take it easy for a while. You may need to take up to 3 or 4 days off of work and exercise, but this all depends on the person. The younger you are, the quicker you tend to heal after oral surgery.

Eat Soft Foods

Make sure to stick to soft foods after surgery. The first day you should only eat cold soft foods like jello, pudding, and applesauce. After that, you can graduate to soft, warm foods like mashed potatoes and soup. Do your best not to disturb the extraction site until it’s healed.

Don’t Use a Straw

Milkshakes and smoothies are great post-surgery meal, but don’t drink them through a straw. The suction that is created in your mouth when you use a straw can displace that blood clot.

No Spitting

Spitting can also create a sort of vacuum inside your mouth. For the first few days after surgery, when you rinse you should let the liquid drip out of your mouth instead of spitting.

Keep it Clean

Rinse the area with warm saltwater. You can resume brushing and flossing the other parts of your mouth on the second day. You can also use a syringe to squirt salt water directly onto the extraction site to make sure it stays clean.

Don’t Smoke

Taking a drag from a cigarette will create that vacuum effect and significantly increase your chances for getting dry socket. Tobacco products are also full of toxins that can cause infection, so stay away from them during recovery and beyond.

Your dentist or oral surgeon may prescribe oral antibiotics for you to take after your oral surgery. If they do, make sure you take them as prescribed.

Dry socket is very painful, so you should do your best to prevent yourself from getting one after you’ve had a tooth extracted.

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