How to Prevent a Dry Socket after Tooth Extraction

Family Dentist

Tooth extractions are common, especially when it comes to impacted (or partially impacted) wisdom teeth. While extractions are generally safe and effective, one of the potential complications that can arise is a dry socket. 

The board-certified dentists at Trident Dental want you to know more about the potential complication of a dry socket and how you can prevent it after a tooth extraction.

What is a dry socket and how do you know if you have it?

Alveolar osteitis, or dry socket as it’s more often called, happens after a tooth extraction when the protective blood clot (that your body creates to protect your nerves) is either dislodged or dissolved prematurely. When the blood clot is compromised, it exposes your underlying bone and nerves. 

This can cause severe pain, bad breath, and an unpleasant taste in your mouth. You may also notice that your socket appears empty or dry, hence the name “dry socket.” Dry socket typically occurs within the first few days after a tooth extraction and can delay your healing process. 

While it is a relatively common complication, certain factors such as smoking, oral contraceptives, and poor oral hygiene can increase the risk of developing a dry socket. It is essential to contact our team if you experience severe pain, bleeding, or signs of infection after a tooth extraction.

Tips for preventing dry socket

There are many strategies to reduce your risk of developing dry socket. Here’s what you need to do:

Follow our post-operative instructions carefully 

Our team provides you with post-operative instructions that are tailored to your specific situation. Our post-extraction instructions focus on:

  • Infection reduction
  • Proper healing 
  • Pain management 
  • Tips for minimizing the risk of complications like dry socket 

These instructions may include avoiding certain foods and drinks, taking medications as prescribed, and avoiding smoking or using straws. If you have any questions about your specific after-care instructions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Eat soft foods

Eating soft foods after an extraction is par for the course, and for good reason: it helps prevent dry socket. Hard or pointy foods (like tortilla chips or crackers) can accidentally poke or dislodge the protective blood clot. It’s best to stick to soft, cool, and easy-to-chew foods for the first few days after the extraction.  Avoid hot and spicy foods that can irritate the extraction site.

Soup, smoothies, mashed potatoes, pureed veggies, scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, applesauce, and pureed curry and rice are good ideas of healthy but tasty soft foods.

Avoid drinking through a straw

Drinking a smoothie or shake with a straw might seem like the perfect soft food, but skip the straw. Smoothies can be a nutrient-dense food, but drinking through a straw can create a suction force strong enough to dislodge the blood clot from your socket, leading to a dry socket. Avoid using straws for at least 48 hours after the extraction or unless directed otherwise. Instead, use shaker jars and sip slowly without a straw.

Avoid smoking and vaping

According to a study published in a 2022 article in the Dentistry Journal, about 13.2% of smokers experienced dry socket compared to only 3.8% of non-smokers who had an extraction. Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for developing a dry socket for two reasons: the nicotine content and the suction formed by inhaling while smoking. 

It’s essential to avoid smoking or using any tobacco products for at least 48 hours after the extraction. If possible, consider this a good time to quit. Smoking cessation can help reduce dry socket, but it can also help reduce other oral health risks, such as oral cancer.

Keep your extraction site clean… carefully!

Keeping your extraction site clean can help prevent infection and promote healing. Gently rinse your mouth with warm saltwater several times a day, starting the day after the extraction. Brush your teeth gently, being careful to avoid the extraction site. Brushing too vigorously can dislodge the blood clot.

Rest and avoid strenuous activity

Avoid strenuous activity for the first few days after the extraction. This can increase blood pressure and pulse rate, which can increase the risk of dislodging the blood clot.

Questions about your aftercare?

We know the thought of dry socket can be overwhelming, but don’t let that keep you from getting the extraction you need. We’re more than happy to walk you through all your aftercare instructions to help you avoid this complication. Call or click here to schedule your next appointment at Trident Dental.