After a wisdom tooth extraction, some patients face an increased risk of complications, the most common of which is dry socket.
Dry socket is a painful condition also known as alveolar osteitis. It is characterized by dull, throbbing pain that typically lasts for four to eight days. Fortunately, not everyone who gets their third molars removed suffers dry socket. If you follow your oral surgeon’s aftercare instructions, your recovery should be smooth and complication-free.
Understanding what puts you at an increased risk for dry socket can also boost your chances of avoiding it.
What Causes Dry Socket After Wisdom Tooth Extraction?
Immediately after wisdom tooth removal, a blood clot forms at the extraction site. This clot plays an important role in recovery, shielding the exposed nerves and bone. In a normal tooth extraction recovery, soft tissue and bone grow to cover the clot and seal the gums.
In a patient with alveolar osteitis, the blood clot is lost before the empty socket can be permanently sealed with soft tissue and bone. The extraction site is left exposed, which creates pain and delays healing.
Risk Factors for Dry Socket
Anyone who undergoes wisdom tooth extraction can develop alveolar osteitis. In fact, the simple act of sucking on a straw is enough to dislodge the blood clot.
Certain factors can also increase the risk of suffering from this complication. Patients who are more likely to experience alveolar osteitis include those who:
- Have impacted wisdom teeth or have had difficult tooth extractions
- Smoke or use other forms of tobacco
- Take oral contraceptives
- Have poor oral hygiene habits
- Have current or previous infections
Preventing Dry Socket After Wisdom Tooth Extraction
Following your oral surgeon’s aftercare instructions is a crucial step for preventing alveolar osteitis. To sidestep this complication, oral surgeons advise their patients to:
- Avoid spitting and rinsing the mouth vigorously.
- Minimize physical activity for about a week after tooth extraction.
- Avoid smoking and tobacco use for as long as possible.
- Drink from a cup, rather than through a straw.
- Steer clear of hot liquids, such as coffee and soup.
- Stick to soft foods until the gums have fully healed.
Some patients may also benefit from taking an oral antibiotic before wisdom tooth removal. In addition, using an antibacterial mouthwash or gel before and after the procedure may be recommended.
Dry Socket Treatment
Alveolar osteitis has no quick cure. Treatment typically involves managing the pain while the socket heals.
After gently irrigating the socket to clear away debris, your oral surgeon will cover the extraction site with an analgesic medicated dressing for immediate pain relief. The packing may need to be replaced every couple of days until recovery is complete. For ongoing pain management, your surgeon may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or prescription medication.
If you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, the treatment team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah will do everything possible to ensure you have an easy, complication-free recovery.
Having served the greater Salt Lake City area for more than a decade, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah has become known for providing expert care with a friendly, compassionate touch. Contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office today to schedule a consultation to discuss wisdom tooth extraction.