How to Prevent a Dry Socket: 4 Helpful Tips

BY Dr. McDowell  |  September 6th, 2021
Dr. McDowell
Dr. McDowell has always been focused on using the latest technology to improve the patient experience. From radiation-free imaging to laser dentistry, he has always been ahead of the curve and is dedicated to improving the practice of dentistry one ..

Going to the dentist is stressful enough, but experiencing the excruciating pain of dry sockets after wisdom teeth removal? That’s downright terrifying.

Alveolar osteitis, more commonly known as a dry socket, happens when patients dislodge the blood clot from a wound site after having a tooth extracted. Aside from severe pain, other symptoms associated with an empty tooth socket include:

Are you worried about developing a dry socket after undergoing tooth extraction surgeries such as wisdom tooth removal? You’re not alone. Although only 2-5% of people experience this painful condition after a wisdom tooth extraction or other restorative oral procedure, it’s still a prevalent fear among most patients, and many adults scramble for the best advice on how to prevent dry socket formation.

While it’s not necessarily a common complication, some people possess predisposing factors and other underlying issues that may delay healing since a dry socket occurs. To ensure proper healing for all patients, we’ve outlined several helpful tips on how to prevent dry socket pain from impacting your mouth (and life) after oral surgery.

dry socket

What Is a Dry Socket?

When you have a tooth removed for any reason, you’re often left with an empty socket and exposed nerve endings. Just like any other injury that cuts the skin’s surface, your mouth will need to develop a blood clot over the area where the tooth once was to protect your body from infection until proper healing occurs.

Although the wound site will most likely be covered in a medicated dressing after a wisdom tooth extraction or other oral surgery, there is always a chance you might form a dry socket outside the dentist’s office, even after a blood clot forms. If a blood clot becomes dislodged after your wisdom teeth extraction, you’ll likely experience the infamous dry socket.

Beware of a Lost Blood Clot

One of the most common times an individual starts developing dry socket pain is after undergoing a wisdom teeth removal. Considering that having wisdom teeth or another tooth extracted is already an unpleasant enough experience in the first place, it’s extremely wise to take a few crucial steps to prevent dry socket formation from impacting.

As you have probably heard, dry sockets are an extremely painful sore in your mouth that occurs after tooth extractions. To experience a dry socket, the blood clot that forms in your mouth after a tooth is removed will become dislodged. The blood clot protects you from sharp, shooting pains and should stay in place to ensure your nerves, bones, gums, and everything else in your mouth heals up perfectly.

When the protective layer of a blood clot is broken after tooth extractions or wisdom teeth removal, it typically leaves an open or ‘dry’ exposure of bone and nerves, which is what we call a dry socket (alveolar osteitis).

Dry sockets can be extremely painful and prevent the healing process from happening as quickly as it otherwise would. Not only is it uncomfortable when that blood clot becomes dislodged, but it can also cause other further potential complications.

How to Prevent Dry Socket Pain

Impacted wisdom teeth are painful enough, but many people are also prone to other risk factors that lead to slow healing from a dry socket. There are quite a few ways to be careful to avoid dislodging that blood clot.

Although you should always talk to your oral surgeon for the most effective advice related to your unique risk factors, since everything doesn’t apply to everyone, take note of each tip listed below, just in case. Here are the top tips for how to avoid dry sockets:

1.) Avoid These Things After Tooth Extraction

Get used to eating only soft foods and stopping any smoking and tobacco use for at least a week or even more after tooth extraction. Unless you want to spark blood flow at your wound site, make sure to avoid these key things:

Straws 🥤

Sucking through straws is one of the most common ways that people develop dry sockets. When using a straw, it’s hard to control how quickly liquid enters your mouth or where the liquid will go when it comes through the straw. The suction that straws create is also potentially hazardous to the blood clot protecting your tooth socket, so it’s best to avoid straws after a dental procedure.

Are you a caffeine addict who can’t even go a day without iced coffee? Don’t worry; You won’t have to avoid drinking from those Starbucks straws for too long. After roughly a week, you should be able to get back to using your favorite straw as usual.

But, as with all of these tips, be sure to speak with your dentist and listen closely to their advice to achieve the highest levels of comfort and lower your likelihood of having a dry socket problem.

Smoking, Alcohol, and Chewing Tabacco 🚬🍺

Of course, smoking and tobacco use has never been good for your oral health, and that’s especially true during your tooth extraction recovery. In fact, your chances of getting a dry socket go up by 3x if you smoke after tooth extraction. One of the reasons this happens is because of the inhalation and suction motions that occur during smoking.

Avoid chewing tobacco and all tobacco product use, in general, while you heal. Continuously chewing, sucking, or spitting other forms of tobacco can cause your blood clot to become dislodged from the extraction site, as well as smoking.

In addition, patients must avoid alcohol because it can encourage excessive bleeding and delay your healing. Essentially, alcohol will relax your body too much and keep it from healing as it should. It’s best to try to avoid smoking and using other tobacco products during recovery (or quit smoking entirely to prevent poor oral hygiene or health problems that are irreversible in the future) and put down the bottle until you’re feeling better.

soup in a bowl. What to eat after wisdom tooth removal

Hard Foods That Need to Be Chewed 🍎

You’ve likely already been advised by your oral surgeon to eat soft foods after your procedure for plenty of good reasons. Hard foods like apples, carrots, chips, some meats, nuts, and more should be put on the back burner during recovery because failure to avoid crunchy, crispy meals might cause extreme pain at the extraction site.

Truly any food that needs to be chewed for an extensive amount of time is one that you should pass over on this week’s shopping trip. Instead, try sticking to soft foods or foods that require the least amount of chewing possible.

Here are some foods that are good to eat when you’re trying to recover from tooth extraction:

Are you feeling like your menu is too limited? These are just a few great options you can eat; Check out the full list of foods to eat after a wisdom tooth extraction here!

Cold and Hot Drinks or Food ☕️

While you avoid crunchy, uncomfortable food during recovery, remember to stay away from excessively cold or hot drinks such as coffee and tea or a milkshake. As we already mentioned, you want to avoid straws because of the suction, but extreme temperatures will affect your extraction site a little differently.

Cold and hot drinks or other extreme foods feel as sharp as knives on the exposed nerves in your mouth, especially if you lack good oral hygiene overall. Stick to the foods listed in the previous section to ensure you can eat a healthy, pain-free meal while healing.

Strenuous Physical Activity 🏋🏼‍♂️

Trying to keep from physical activity can be a challenge, especially if you’re a fitness fanatic. In order to help your body heal up in the fastest and best way, you’ll have to take it easy from working out for a few days.

Any tooth extraction is hard on your body, and if you’re trying to prevent a dry socket, you should avoid too much physical activity since it could cause your blood clot to be jolted loose.

woman avoiding physical activity to avoid dry sockets

2.) Ask Your Dentist About Your Medications

Certain medications like birth control pills can impact your blood’s ability to clot. If you’re on different medications known to thin blood or cause other problems with the body’s healing process, be sure to talk mention it to your dentist before surgery. Some examples include:

Even if you’re sure that your medication doesn’t thin your blood, it’s vital that you make your dentist aware of any other medication that you’re using so they can assess its clinical features and contraindications associated with alveolar osteitis.

3.) Maintain Proper Oral Care

Proper oral care is key to keeping any mouth healthy, but especially for one recovering from an operation. To lower the risk of developing a dry socket, you’ll want to brush regularly, carefully avoiding the extraction site.

Brushing twice a day – once in the morning and once at night – is ideal, but avoid brushing too closely to your extraction site because of problems that can happen when you dislodge the blood clot.

To ensure the wound is kept clean, your dentist will most likely provide an antibacterial mouthwash or syringe for you to accurately and delicately clean the extraction site. Use the product your oral surgeon provides or recommends to gently rinse your mouth after brushing.

Flossing is also just as important after tooth extraction as it was before. Keeping your mouth clean will help to prevent bone and nerves from becoming infected by bacteria that build up from not properly cleaning your teeth. Here are some of the best flossing tips to help keep alveolar osteitis at bay using good flossing habits.

4.) Inspect the Tooth Socket

After you brush, floss, and gently rinse your mouth, use a flashlight or your phone to inspect the wound site for symptoms of dry socket. If you see bone, nerves, or a never-ending stream of blood, it’s time to consult with your oral surgeon in case of a dry socket.

Symptoms of Dry Socket

Aside from substantial pain, one of the most common ways to tell if you have a dry socket is by looking into your mouth with a mirror. You probably have a dry socket if you see a visible bone where your tooth was before the extraction or can’t stop the excessive bleeding.

Two other common symptoms some people experience are:

If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your dentist immediately! There are treatments and pain medications to ease your suffering after developing a dry socket.

Stop Putting Up With Dry Socket Pain

If you have any questions or concerns about your oral health or are experiencing extreme discomfort, it is always best to reach out to your dentist. We recommend finding a quality dentist near you that you trust. When you regularly visit the same dentist or oral surgeon, it is easier for them to track your dental health over time and ensure your needs are met.

If you are looking for an innovative and trustworthy facility that can offer preventative dental services and deal with your dry socket pain right away, reach out to us at Wayzata Dental in Minnesota! We look forward to meeting you.

Dr. McDowell
Dr. McDowell has always been focused on using the latest technology to improve the patient experience. From radiation-free imaging to laser dentistry, he has always been ahead of the curve and is dedicated to improving the practice of dentistry one ..