Though wisdom teeth removal is an extremely common procedure, only 2-5% of patients suffer from dry socket afterwards. It can be prevented very easily by doing exactly what your dentist tells you to do following the procedure, but if it does happen, it can be simply treated.
A socket is the hole in the bone left by the removal of your tooth. A dry socket occurs when the protective blood clot that is supposed to heal that socket is knocked loose, exposing the open wound to food, debris, and air. The biggest cause of dry socket is smoking too soon after the procedure— you should not smoke for at least 24 hours after you get your wisdom teeth removed.
Other common causes include:
- The suction caused by drinking from a straw
- Food or debris getting stuck in the hole
- Coughing, sneezing, or spitting
- Poor oral hygiene
- Touching the wound too much
- Some birth control medications
You may have dry socket if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Pain starting around 2 days after the procedure
- Dull, throbbing pain radiating from the socket up to your ear
- A dry looking opening where the blood clot should be
- Bad breath and a bad taste in your mouth
Dry socket is easily avoidable. Here are ways to prevent dry socket:
- Use the oral rinse given to you after the procedure
- Don’t smoke for at least 24 hours after the procedure. Ideally, don’t smoke at all
- Don’t touch the wound other than to change the gauze
- Don’t eat peanuts, popcorn, pasta, or any other foods that get stuck easily
- Eat soft foods and clear soup
- Avoid carbonated drinks
- Tell your dentist about any prescriptions that you currently take
If you do develop dry socket, though it is painful, the treatment is simple. Your dentist can extract whatever debris is in the socket, and fill the hole with a medicated paste that will need to be removed and refilled each day for a few days. If the socket becomes infected, your dentist can prescribe antibiotics to take care of the infection. Dry socket is easily preventable as long as you follow your dentist’s instructions. If you believe that you may have developed dry socket, call you dentist as soon as possible to begin treatment.