This post was originally published on June 21, 2018 and updated on May 15, 2019
You may not be able to avoid getting your wisdom teeth pulled, but you can prevent unnecessary pain and irritation following the surgery. One of the most inconvenient dental conditions that develop after a wisdom tooth extraction is dry socket. Dry socket occurs when a blood clot fails to develop in the space where your tooth was pulled, exposing the open wound to food, debris, and air.
It’s important that a blood clot forms because it’s the foundation for new bone and tissue growth. But don’t worry too much because only 2–5% of patients suffer from dry socket after surgery, which means it is completely preventable.
Below we’ve listed the most common causes and symptoms you should look out for to ensure a healthy recovery following your surgery.
The two most common causes of dry socket.
Smoking and suction
One of the biggest mistakes people make after any tooth removal is smoking cigarettes too soon after their procedure. You should wait at least 72 hours following your surgery to smoke. The other most common cause is drinking through a straw. We recommend waiting just as long before you use a straw because the suction can disrupt blood clot formation.
Other common causes include:
- Food or debris getting stuck in the extraction site
- Coughing, sneezing, or spitting
- Poor oral hygiene
- Touching the wound too much
- Some birth control medications (talk to your dentist before the surgery to find out if your medication is on that list)
Common dry socket symptoms.
If you believe you have dry socket or experience any of these symptoms, talk to your dentist immediately.
- Pain that starts two days after the procedure
- Dull, throbbing pain radiating from the socket up to your ear
- A dry opening where the blood clot should be
- Bad breath and a bad taste in your mouth
How to prevent dry socket.
Thankfully, dry socket is easily avoidable. To help with any recovery, you’ll need to develop healthy eating and cleaning habits. Here are a few rules you should follow:
- Use the oral rinse given to you after the procedure
- Don’t smoke for at least 72 hours after the procedure
- Don’t touch the wound other than to change the gauze
- Don’t eat peanuts, popcorn, pasta, or any other foods that could get stuck in the extraction site
- Eat soft foods and clear soups
- Avoid carbonated drinks
- Tell your dentist about any prescriptions that you currently take
For a full list of foods you should and shouldn’t eat after wisdom tooth removal, see our blog post on eating after wisdom tooth extraction.
How to treat dry socket.
Dry socket may be painful, but 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 every day for a few days following the initial treatment.
If you feel you may have developed dry socket, call your dentist as soon as possible to begin treatment. If the socket is infected, your dentist can prescribe antibiotics.
Have more questions about wisdom tooth removal? Check out our blog post on everything you need to know about wisdom tooth extraction surgery.
Have more questions about wisdom tooth removal?
Check out our blog post on everything you need to know about wisdom tooth extraction surgery.