Alveolar osteitis is the medical term for dry socket, a painful condition that can develop after oral surgery. Following a tooth extraction, a blood clot forms in order to protect the underlying nerves and bone. If this clot dislodges or dissolves too soon, it leaves the area exposed to air, food and bacteria, which may cause infection. It is important to take precautions to prevent dry socket after oral surgery involving the removal of a tooth.

Risk Factors

While anyone can get dry socket, some people are at more risk, especially if they:

  • smoke
  • have poor dental hygiene
  • have a traumatic extraction
  • take birth control
  • have a history of dry socket
  • had wisdom teeth removed

Signs and Symptoms

If you can see the bone where your tooth used to be, it’s a dry socket indicator. Another symptom is throbbing pain that develops 48 hours or more after extraction. 

Pain from dry socket may radiate from the extraction site to your ear, temple, eye and neck. It’s most often on the same side of the extraction. 

How to Prevent Dry Socket 

1. Avoid Smoking

If you smoke or use tobacco, there’s a greater risk of developing dry socket. That’s because when you inhale, it can dislodge the blood clot. Not only that, but cigarettes contain chemicals that can prevent healing and lead to infection. 

If you smoke, cut back a few weeks before the surgery, and don’t smoke any cigarettes following extraction until the area has healed. 

2. Eat Soft Foods

The first 24 hours after oral surgery, eat only soft foods. Foods like applesauce, mashed potatoes and yogurt won’t dislodge the clot or cause discomfort. Avoid eating soup because the slurping can dislodge the newly formed blood clot. 

By the second day, try eating something heartier. If you have any pain, go back to softer food for another 24 hours. 

3. Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Keeping your mouth clean is an essential step in avoiding dry socket during the healing process. Good oral hygiene keeps infection and germs from breaking down the blood clot. 

Talk to your dentist about how to brush after extraction. They might recommend gently rinsing your mouth the first day and then resume brushing after 24 hours. 

In some cases, the dentist might prescribe an antibacterial mouth rinse. 

4. No Straws

Drinking from a straw creates suction, which can dislodge the blood clot. Avoid straws for one week following the extraction. 

5. Medication Interactions

Tell your dentist about any medications you may take. Studies show that women taking birth control are twice as likely to develop dry socket. 

Meanwhile, other medications can prevent the blood clot from forming correctly. 

Extraction Aftercare

Your dentist and/or oral surgeon will provide aftercare instructions to expedite recovery. Typically, you should feel better within 72 hours of surgery and fully healed after a week. 

Tooth extraction aftercare tips include:

  • Drink lots of fluids to keep well hydrated.
  • Avoid any hard foods or beverages that could damage the clot.
  • Brush teeth gently and avoid brushing for the first 24 hours.
  • Rest for as long as possible following extraction.
  • Avoid any strenuous exercise or activity for one week.
  • Use an ice pack to treat swelling externally.

Treating Dry Socket

In the unfortunate event that you do develop dry socket, the dentist will clean the socket to clear any food or other particles. Doing so may alleviate pain and can help to prevent infection. 

If you have any questions on preventing dry socket or other oral surgery care, please reach out to us. We are here to help!