Wisdom Teeth Extraction: Dreaded Dry Socket

How understanding and adhering to pre- & post-operative instructions can save wisdom teeth patients from this painful condition

Hearing the words “oral surgery” may sound bad to some patients, but to wisdom teeth patients, the words “dry socket” are far worse.

Advancements in oral surgery techniques have allowed oral surgeons to streamline the process of wisdom teeth extractions. Not only can oral surgeons perform this procedure more efficiently and more safely than ever before, they have also developed surgical practices which allow for a minimally invasive extraction. In spite of this, wisdom teeth patients remain at risk for the development of alveolar osteitis, better known as “dry socket.”

Normally, when wisdom teeth are removed, a protective blood clot develops in the empty tooth socket. This blood clot is the first stage in a normal healing process of the extraction site. If this blood clot becomes dislodged or dissolves from the site before healing is complete, the unprotected socket is susceptible to delayed healing and a dry socket may develop.

Some of the most common reasons that a dry socket may occur following wisdom teeth extractions include:

  • Use of a straw during the first 48 hours after surgery
  • Smoking or tobacco use following surgery
  • Overzealous use of an irrigating syringe

If a dry socket does develop, you may notice pain in the extraction site, visible bone in the socket, or swollen lymph nodes around your neck and jaw. If you think that you may have a dry socket, it is best to see your oral surgeon immediately for treatment.

Many patients ask, “How can I prevent a dry socket from developing?” Although some causes of dry sockets are unavoidable, patients can practice dry socket prevention by strictly adhering to the pre-operative and post-operative instructions presented by their oral surgeon.

While there are many things to keep in mind during recovery, here are a few important recommended instructions to note to prevent dry socket:

  • Keep your mouth clean. This can be accomplished by light brushing of your teeth and gentle rinsing with warm water, particularly after eating.
  • Healing happens when you are hydrated! We ask that you drink lots of water and avoid any alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and hot beverages.
  • Do not use a straw while your surgical sites are healing. This is the number one way blood clots become dislodged.
  • DO NOT smoke or use any other tobacco products following wisdom teeth extractions.
  • If you have been placed on antibiotics following surgery, please use as directed. Call our office if you have any questions.

While only about 1 in 20 patients develops dry socket following wisdom teeth extractions, it is best to take precautions to avoid it. Believe us when we say that you want to do everything in your power to avoid this uncomfortable and painful condition.

For more information about pre-operative and post-operative care for wisdom teeth removal, visit our website at www.indianapolisoralsurgery.com/instructions.