Dry socket can occur after having wisdom teeth removed and can be an extremely painful, unpleasant condition, albeit only temporary. It is more likely to occur where lower wisdom teeth have been removed, rather than the upper ones. Fortunately it affects fewer than 5% of patients, but there are steps that can be taken to prevent it.
A socket is simply a hole in the bone where the tooth was extracted. It will fill with blood which then clots and protects the bone and nerves underneath until healing takes place. The blood clot is essential to healing. If the blood clot is dislodged this can lead to dry socket.
What then happens is that the bone and nerves become exposed to air and to food debris, bacteria and saliva which can lodge in the socket where the blood clot should be.
The pain usually starts about two days after the tooth has been extracted and can progress to the ear becoming very acute. Other symptoms are bad breath, a nasty taste in the mouth and the socket itself looking white.
There are several ways that the blood clot can become dislodged, including smoking and drinking through a straw. Both of these activities can cause suction which can remove the blood clot. Touching the area with the fingers can also cause the clot to shift.
In addition, coughing, sneezing, and spitting can cause debris to enter the socket. Poor oral hygiene is another contributory factor, and women who are taking a birth control pill are 30% more likely to develop a dry socket. Once the blood clot has been dislodged it is very easy for food and other debris to get stuck in the socket.
Obviously, once food or other particles are in the socket they are extremely hard to remove without the proper tools. Certainly, trying to remove them with a toothbrush from what is basically an open wound is not an option.
It may be necessary to visit the dentist every day for a few days. He will remove the debris from the socket and apply a medicated paste and this will need to be changed every day. An anti-inflammatory may be prescribed for the pain, and if the socket should develop an infection the dentist will also prescribe an antibiotic.
Fortunately dry socket is not all that common a problem, but when it occurs it needs prompt treatment.
There are a number of steps you can take to prevent dry socket after wisdom tooth removal. These are:
- Do NOT touch the area with fingers or anything else.
- Practice good oral hygiene.
- Rinse your mouth with salt water after eating in order to kill bacteria.
- If the dentist has prescribed an oral rinse, use it as instructed.
- Do NOT smoke for at least 24 hours after extraction.
- Do not eat nuts or other foods which are likely to leave debris in the mouth, such as pasta, chocolate, cereals, etc.
- Try to eat soft foods such as soup, mashed potato and so on.
- Avoid fizzy drinks.
- Tell your dentist about any medication you are taking.
If you need wisdom tooth removal contact us for an appointment right away. We can give you some further tips on avoiding dry socket before your surgery.