You already know how painful things can be after wisdom tooth removal surgery (That’s why you’re here, after all).
“But at least,” you tell yourself, “the pain and soreness will be gone after another few days.”
That may be true for most people, but if you’re not careful, you may end up being one of the 2-5% of people who develop dry socket after having their wisdom teeth removed.
Or you may already be experiencing some really painful symptoms. If so, keep reading, because we have some real simple remedies and easy steps to treat dry socket.
But what is dry socket? Read on to find out.
What is Dry Socket?
Dry Socket is the common name for a medical condition named “alveolar osteitis.” It occurs when a blood clot fails to form at the site of tooth extraction.
The blood clot may dissolve or dislodge a few days after the surgery. This exposes the bone and nerves underneath to air, food, and fluids that enter the mouth.
Exposure to these elements leads to extreme pain and discomfort, and even has the potential to cause complications and infections in the affected area.
What does Dry Socket look like?
Dry Socket often appears as a hole in your gum where your tooth used to be. In the more severe cases, it may even start to look black and heavily infected.
Dry Socket Symptoms
Some of the most common symptoms of Dry Socket include:
- Severe pain starting a few days after tooth extraction
- An empty-looking socket due to the partial or complete loss of the blood clot at the tooth extraction site
- Visible bone in the socket
- Pain that radiates from the socket to your ear, eye, temple, or neck on the same half of your face as the extraction
- Bad breath or a foul smell coming from your mouth
- Unpleasant taste in your mouth
How to prevent Dry Socket
Dry Socket is one of the most common complications after wisdom teeth removal. Fortunately, it’s also very preventable. You can start the prevention process before you even have your wisdom tooth removed.
Preventing Dry Socket before the Surgery
Contact a dentist who is experienced in wisdom tooth extraction. A skilled dentist makes a big difference in your recovery, since the smoother your procedure goes, the less likely you are to have unexpected complications.
Also, if you’re a smoker, quit smoking before your tooth extraction. Smoking and using other tobacco-related products increase the chances that you’ll pick up a bad case of Dry Socket. Consult a doctor on the best way to quit smoking, at least temporarily if you can’t pull away completely.
Finally, discuss any medications or relevant medical history with your dentist before the procedure. Certain drugs can complicate your recovery, including making it more difficult for blood clots to form in your open sockets.
What your Dentist or Oral Surgeon can do to prevent Dry Socket
This is exactly why we talked about the importance of choosing the proper dentist before anything else. Your dentist will try to ensure your socket heals properly and may prescribe you one or more medications to avoid Dry Socket and enable fast healing of the wound.
These medications include:
- Antibacterial mouthwashes used before and after the surgery to prevent any bacterial infection. Be careful about using mouthwash without asking your dentist first. Most contain alcohol, which is extremely bad for your recovery after wisdom teeth removal.
- Antibiotics, especially if you have a weak immune system.
- Antiseptic medications to apply on the wound.
- Medicated bandages to apply after surgery.
How to prevent Dry Socket after Wisdom Tooth Removal
A good dentist or oral surgeon will give you detailed instructions to follow after wisdom tooth extraction. These will help you take care of the wound properly and avoid complications like Dry Socket.
These instructions will usually revolve around the following issues:
- Movement – After your surgery, rest as much as you can. Avoid tough exercise and harsh sports for the period recommended by your dentist because needless exercise and movement can loosen the clot.
- Drinks – After your surgery, make sure you drink lots of water and stay well-hydrated. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks like Coca-Cola. You should also avoid extremely hot drinks for the first couple of days. If you must drink coffee or tea, allow it to cool down first into a low-to-warm temperature before consuming it. Also, avoid the use of a straw, since the pressure changes inside your mouth could also dislodge the blood clots as well.
- Nutrition – Take care to only eat certain soft foods for the first several days after the procedure. You should also work as much as possible to chew any food on the side of the mouth away from the open socket.
- Keeping your mouth clean – After the first 24 hours after surgery, you can start rinsing your mouth with warm salt water to keep the wound clean multiple times a day.
For more detailed instructions on wisdom teeth removal aftercare, check out our guide on the do’s and don’ts after wisdom tooth removal here!
Will Dry Socket Heal on its Own?
The short answer is yes (usually).
Dry Socket is likely to heal by itself, but the process is not going to be pleasant. Even if it does heal successfully, you’ll be experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort, and you’ll find yourself needing a lot of pain relief.
Instead of waiting for the problem to fix itself, read on to find out about treatment options for Dry Socket.
Dry Socket Treatment
Before deciding how to treat your dry socket, it’s important that you fix whatever behavior lead to these complications in the first place. All the medicine and treatment isn’t going to make much difference if you’re not taking proper care of your mouth once you’ve left the dentist’s office.
Once again, we’re going to recommend you read our guide on do’s and don’ts after wisdom teeth removal for more information on this topic.
Go see a Dentist
While it’s true dry socket will probably heal on its own, you’re still looking at a very painful process. Who wants that?
Going to see a dentist is always the best option in cases like these.
Just in case you missed that, we wrote it down again: Going to see a dentist is always the best option in cases like these.
There are some alternative methods of treatment, but there is no substitute for the attention of a qualified health professional.
The dentist will start by irrigating and flushing the empty socket in order to remove food debris. Next, they’ll place an analgesic medicated dressing or covering on top of the wounded area to cover the exposed nerves and bone. This relieves much of the pain immediately.
Lastly, the dentist will prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines and painkillers to alleviate the pain. The dressing might have to be replaced two to three times a week.
You can perform the above steps at home by cleansing the wound with cold water and keeping a gauze over the socket as a dressing. The dentist will also provide you with modified plastic syringes that will help you clean the socket with salt water.
Home Remedies for Dry Socket
As we’ve already talked about, your first step should always be to contact your dentist if you’re experiencing symptoms of Dry Socket.
You can use painkillers, cold packs, and hot packs.
You can also use salt water to rinse your mouth and swab the affected area with cotton dipped in clove oil to soothe the pain.
Dry Socket Paste
Dry Socket Paste is a product that is designed for trained dentists and other health professionals.
While it is legal to sell directly to the public, we strongly recommend that you go to a dentist and have them apply this to your dry socket wound.
Still, if for some reason you’re not able to get to a dentist, this is still an option.
For more ways to avoid complications after wisdom tooth removal, check out our list of 5 Foods to Avoid After a Wisdom Tooth Extraction!