Most patients who undergo tooth extraction have a smooth recovery, healing after just a few days.
But a small percentage of patients experience complications after extractions. One of the most common is called dry socket, or alveolar osteitis.
Patients affected by this phenomenon may suffer mild to severe pain around the extraction site, in many cases radiating through the face and neck.
Fortunately, you can take steps to avoid this complication.
What Is a Dry Socket?
When a tooth is removed, a blood clot forms at the extraction site to protect the bone and nerves in the empty tooth socket.
In cases of normal healing, soft tissue and bone grow over the clot. Sometimes, however, this blood clot becomes dislodged or dissolves before this growth can take place. When this happens, the bone and nerves are left exposed.
For most patients with dry socket, the pain peaks three to five days after extraction.
Some patients are at a higher risk of developing dry socket after a tooth extraction. Smokers are particularly susceptible, as the blood clot can be dislodged through the act of sucking on a cigarette.
In addition, smokers and users of other tobacco products experience slower healing due to the chemicals contained in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.
Certain medications, including oral contraceptives and corticosteroids, and chronic health conditions such as diabetes may affect the healing process.
Preparing for Tooth Extraction
The doctor will evaluate your medical and dental history before the procedure, to identify potential risk factors for complications.
Patients with certain conditions such as poor oral health or a compromised immune system, may be prescribed oral antibiotics to take prior to the surgery. Antibacterial mouthwashes or gels may also be recommended for use both before and after tooth extraction.
Recommendations for Tooth Extraction Aftercare
Following the oral surgeon’s aftercare instructions promotes proper healing and will go a long way in helping to prevent dry socket.
Keeping your mouth clean with regular gentle brushing is critical, as is keeping your body hydrated. You should also rest for at least 24 hours following a tooth extraction.
Patients are advised to avoid strenuous activities for at least a week, as they can dislodge the blood clot. Rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash, or after the first day, with warm saltwater, is often recommended. However, you must avoid vigorous swishing or spitting.
Until the surgical site has healed, patients are encouraged to eat a soft diet and refrain from using a straw. And, of course, the oral surgeon will advise against smoking and using tobacco products.
Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah serves patients in Toole, Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan and the surrounding communities of Salt Lake City. Our team of oral health professionals is highly qualified and experienced in all aspects of oral surgery and related procedures.
Contact us today for more information about safe and effective tooth extractions.