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Having A Tooth Pulled? Here's What You Need To Know About Dry Socket

If you have a tooth pulled, normally the healing process will go seamlessly as long as you stick to soft foods and keep your mouth clean. Sometimes, however, you might develop a painful condition known as dry socket after having a tooth removed. Before you head in to your tooth extraction appointment, it is important to know the basics about dry socket and how you can prevent it.

What is dry socket?

When your dentist pulls your tooth, the socket in which your tooth was found fills in with blood. This blood forms a clot, which covers the nerve endings located deeper within the socket. If this clot becomes dislodged before gum tissue grows over the empty socket, you get what is called a dry socket. The nerves found deep within the socket are exposed to air, and this causes them to send powerful pain signals to the brain.

How do you know if you have dry socket?

Your pain following a tooth extraction should be mild to moderate, and you should be able to keep it under control by taking pain relievers. If you suddenly find yourself suffering from serious, searing pain in the days following your tooth extraction, then you probably have dry socket. Other symptoms of dry socket include:

  • A relentless, throbbing pain deep within your jaw
  • Sudden, extensive bleeding from the tooth removal site
  • A bad taste or smell coming from the extraction site

How can you prevent dry socket?

It's far easier to prevent dry socket than it is to go through the pain of dealing with it. Thankfully, you can greatly reduce your risk of dry socket by following a few protocols after you have your tooth extracted:

Avoid drinking from a straw. The suction created in your mouth when you sip from a straw may dislodge the blood clot from your socket. Sip from a cup for at least a week following your dental extraction.

Don't smoke. The chemicals in cigarettes may encourage the clot to dislodge, and they also slow down the healing process. If you're a smoker and don't think you can go without your nicotine fix for a few days after your extraction, dentists recommend using nicotine patches.

Take time off from vigorous exercise: Not only may high-impact exercise like running and jumping physically jar the clot loose, but it also increases your blood pressure, which can contribute to the development of dry socket. Take at least 2 days off from vigorous exercise after surgery. A casual walk is okay. A jog is not.

Stay away from alcohol: Alcoholic beverages may dislodge the clot. Stick to juices, tea, and other non-alcoholic beverages for at least a week after the extraction.

Rinse your mouth gently: Your dentist will likely recommend rinsing your mouth out with salt water a few times a day after your extraction. Do so gently. Vigorous swishing may dislodge the clot.

What should you do if you think you have dry socket?

Call your dentist immediately, or have a friend do so for you if you're in too much pain to speak clearly. Your dentist can prescribe you a stronger pain reliever to keep you comfortable while you heal. He or she will want you to come into the office and have the socket packed with medicated gauze. This will make you far more comfortable as it will minimize contact between your nerve endings and the air. The medicated gauze will also speed up the healing process. Your dentist may also prescribe you an antibiotic to keep the dry socket from becoming infected.

If you have any other concerns about dry socket, talk to your dentist prior to your tooth extraction. It's better to be over-informed than under-informed when it comes to this painful, yet preventable complication. For more information, check out a site like