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Dry socket: the ultimate guide

Our dental health gurus bring everything you need to know about dry socket - including how to avoid it - together in one place.

Whether you're getting all your wisdom teeth pulled or taking out a tooth that's causing you problems, dry socket is enemy #1. In this guide we'll go through everything you need to know to avoid dry socket. And if things don't go your way and you get dry socket, we've also got information on what to do to address and heal from dry socket.

Each year Americans spend $3B per year to extract 10 million wisdom teeth. That's a serious chunk of change for the tooth fairy. With all that cash being spent on extractions nobody wants to spend more money to deal with dry socket.

So how do you avoid dry socket? What's the best way to stay healthy after a tooth extraction? And what do you do if you get dry socket? We created this guide to help you before and after a tooth extraction to minimize your chance of dry socket. And hey, stuff happens, and if you end up getting dry socket, we've got great information for you too.

Dry Socket vs Normal: Do I have dry socket?

After a tooth extraction, dry socket can happen if the blood clot either fails to develop or dislodges before the wound heals. It's a painful situation because the underlying bone and nerve ending, normally protected by the blood clot, are exposed. The clot is important for the healing process as it allows your bone to regrow and for soft tissue to re-develop over the empty space.

Of the millions of extractions that happen, 2-5% of those people will have to deal with dry socket. So how do you know if you're one of the unlucky few? Here are the typical symptoms of dry socket:

  • Pain of 5 out of 10 or higher within a few days of the extraction
  • Pain that worsens in the days after the extraction
  • An "empty-looking" socket where the tooth was removed 
  • Visible bone in the socket 
  • Pain that radiates from the extraction site out to your ear, eye, forehead, or neck on the same side of your face
  • Bad breath or a foul odor
  • Unpleasant taste in your mouth

In this post we share what the normal healing process will look like, and how to determine if your extraction is healing normally … or not. Read more 📖

How to prevent dry socket

There are certain steps you can take to minimize the chances of dry socket before your appointment:

  • Don't smoke in the days leading up to your extraction. The chemicals in cigarettes and tobacco can interrupt the healing process. And smoking dries out your mouth.
  • Discuss medications with your dentist. Some medications may affect your ability to form a blood clot. Talk through what medications you're taking with your dentist ahead of the extraction to determine if any of them might affect you.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Did we mention, hydrate? Being hydrated helps your body do its thing (make blood clots, heal) more effectively.

Check out the post for more information on what you can do post-extraction to help your socket heal as normally and quickly as possible. Read more 📖

Will dry socket heal on its own?

If you're experiencing the symptoms of dry socket, try not to stress. First, you'll want to call your dentist to get a quick appointment so they can look at your extraction site and confirm if you do have dry socket. 

If your dentist determines you have dry socket, they'll get to work reducing the symptoms, lowering your pain level, and helping you recover. They might recommend one or a few of the following options:

  • Flushing out the socket. Your dentist will flush the area to remove any debris, like food particles, that could be causing pain or threaten an infection.
  • Medicated dressings. Your dentist might pack the socket with medicated gel or paste, and cover with medicated dressings. Your dentist can determine if this is the right treatment, and how often you'll need to change dressings.
  • Pain medication. Your dentist may prescribe a pain medication if your situation and circumstances call for it.
  • Self-rinsing at home. Your dentist may have you flush the socket at home to help with the healing process. You'll receive instructions and a plastic syringe with a curved tip to squirt water, salt water or a prescription rinse into the socket. Your dentist will inform you how long to continue the rinse, likely until the soft tissue has healed over.

Find out what to do if you end up with dry socket, and how to get back to a healthy healing process. Read more 📖

Keeping your socket healthy

Most people are worried about the first 3-7 days of healing, but did you know that the healing process can last for months, and that your long-term oral hygiene routine needs to be adapted to keep your socket and mouth healthy?

Read up on what you can do to help your socket heal in the short-term and in the long-run. Your mouth and your wallet will thank you.

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