How to Prevent Dry Socket After Wisdom Teeth Removal
If you are in your young adult years, typically between the ages of 17 to 25, you may experience slight discomfort in your mouth. This can be particularly annoying as you attempt to go about your daily life. You may wonder what is causing this pain, thinking that you already have your full set of teeth.
Unfortunately, our last set of adult teeth, wisdom teeth begin to emerge during these splendid years of our lives. The emergence of wisdom teeth can be painful and require visiting the dentist for wisdom teeth extraction. Wisdom teeth removals are one of the most common dental procedures done across the globe. Why?
A majority of people choose to get their wisdom teeth extracted for one reason: discomfort. Having new teeth emerge when your current adult teeth are set in place can cause immense pain, especially if there is no space for new molars. Also, they may not physically emerge at all. Sometimes, they can become stuck in the gum or jawbone and protrude at the wrong angle. Whatever the case may be, removing your wisdom teeth can prevent all of these issues.
While avoiding all of these potential complications, there is one issue that may follow after a successful tooth extraction: dry socket.
What is Dry Socket?
After having a tooth extracted, you can expect to feel some discomfort in the next few days. This discomfort is fine as long as it does not escalate. If you begin feeling intense amounts of pain after your tooth extraction, you might have a condition called dry socket.
Dry socket or alveolar osteitis is best defined as when blood does not properly clot at the site of the former tooth, or dislodged before proper recovery. After your tooth has been removed, the area left behind is called a socket. In typical scenarios, blood will clot at the affected site to ensure proper healing. The tooth is no longer available to protect the bones and nerve endings in the socket and therefore, the wound must be healed before it becomes infected.
If a patient develops dry socket, the affected region with be exposed to anything that enters the mouth, including air, water, and food bits. This could potentially lead to fatal infection and require another dental visit.
Statistics show that a mere 2-5% of individuals who have had a tooth extracted will develop dry socket. This number rises to 20% for wisdom teeth extractions. Thankfully, this condition can be treated and resolved in a matter of a few days.
What Causes Dry Socket After Wisdom Tooth Extraction?
As mentioned before, this condition occurs when blood fails to clot at the affected region in your mouth. There are typically four reasons why this may occur.
Blood cannot clot properly in your mouth if there is already harmful bacteria present. If you have any diseases at the time of your extraction, such as gingivitis or periodontitis, these bacteria can dissolve the blood clot.
Smokers are especially prone to developing this condition. Substances such as nicotine can prevent clotting at the socket. This is because nicotine reduces the amount of blood in the mouth, making it more difficult to properly clot.
After your extraction, it is important to take precautions when eating or drinking. The blood clot can dislodge through aggressive eating or drinking behaviors. Actions such as drinking through a straw, spitting, or rinsing your mouth can cause the blood clot to dislodge.
Some internal factors that may prevent the formation of a blood clot are hormonal changes and a decreased blood supply.
Other risk factors for alveolar osteitis include age and gender. Studies show that patients that are older than age 30 are usually at a higher risk of developing this condition. As a person ages, the jawbone thickens and less blood becomes circulated throughout the body.
Data also shows that women are more likely to develop this condition than men, due to the use of oral contraceptives and normal hormonal changes during the menstruation cycle. If you exhibit any of these risk factors, you may be curious about how to avoid dry socket.
How to Avoid Dry Socket
This condition can interfere with your daily life, and you may want it gone as soon as possible. After your extraction, it is very important to discuss any concerns with your doctor about your recovery. He/she will give you tips and instructions on how to recover after your extraction.
Following these directions will result in a successful extraction without unintended consequences, however, you may want to take more precautions to avoid developing this condition. This will require learning how to prevent dry socket.
Tips to Prevent Dry Socket
Your oral surgeon may provide a list of instructions as well as prescribe medications to assist in your recovery. Here are just a few of the precautions you should take to have a healthy recovery:
- Avoid straws:
Aggressive drinking behaviors such as sucking from a straw can cause the blood clot to dislodge from the affected site.
- Refrain from smoking:
Chemicals such as nicotine reduce blood flow in the mouth and can interrupt clotting.
- Eat soft foods:
Hard foods are more likely to dislodge the blood clot while you are chewing.
- Practice proper oral hygiene:
Practicing healthy oral hygiene will prevent the build-up of bacteria in the mouth.
How to Treat Dry Socket
If you have been diagnosed with this condition, there is no need to worry. The solution is as simple as visiting your dental clinic. The treatments for alveolar osteitis all revolve around reducing the symptoms, such as pain. Here are a few treatments your doctor may recommend based on the progression of the condition:
Your dentist may most likely prescribe pain medications to reduce the effects of alveolar osteitis. Be sure to rate your pain accurately.
- Flushing out the socket:
If the problem is bacterial-based, your dentist may use distilled water to flush out the socket. This will remove any food particles or harmful bacteria from the affected site.
If the problem is consistent, you may have to perform routine flushing at home. Your doctor will provide you with instructions on how to properly do so. You will be given a plastic syringe to flush your socket.
- Medicated dressings:
If you require immediate pain relief, your doctor may place medicated dressings, gels, or pastes into the socket. This can be used in conjunction with any other treatment.
Dealing With Dry Socket Complications
If you have recently undergone a wisdom tooth extraction and are experiencing pain at the affected region of your mouth, you may have dry socket. Of course, it is best to consult with your dentist right away, rather than self-diagnose. Be sure to explain all of your symptoms accurately to receive the most efficient and quick treatment as possible.