Dry socket after tooth extraction is a painful condition and need immediate attention. Most dentists will agree that their primary objective is to help patients achieve and maintain good oral health; however, doing so sometimes requires extracting one or more teeth. One example of this would be third molars, also known as wisdom teeth, which often become impacted. For context, this means that the teeth never fully erupts through the gum tissue. If this happens, these teeth become increasingly susceptible to decay and can also cause gum infection. In some cases, they may even come in crooked and push other teeth out of position. In these cases, most patients will have to undergo an orthodontic treatment of some kind. And this is alongside needing to have their third molars extracted as well.
Of course, third molars are not the only teeth that dentists will extract to improve or safeguard a patient’s overall oral health. If a patient has a severely decayed tooth that can’t be saved via a root canal, for example, most dentists will recommend having it extracted. And the benefits are two-fold insofar as doing so prevents the tooth from becoming further damaged and minimizes the risk of gum infection. Rounding out the reasons why an extraction could potentially be necessary is orthodontic treatments, such as braces, for example. Being fitted with braces will sometimes require having one or more teeth extracted to ensure they can effectively resolve alignment problems.
What Is a Tooth Extraction Dry Socket?
Also known as alveolar osteitis, a tooth extraction dry socket is a condition that occurs when a blood clot fails to develop in the gum tissue or does develop and then either becomes dislodged or dissolves after an individual has had a tooth extracted. This dental phenomenon affects about 2 percent and 20 percent of adults who have had non-third molars and third molars extracted, respectively. That said, no matter what tooth an individual has had extracted, if it results in a dry socket, agonizing pain is almost sure to follow. And this has a lot to do with the fact that, without a blood clot taking form and remaining intact, the bone that previously held the extracted tooth in place becomes exposed.
Third Molar Tooth Extractions: What You May Not Have Known About a Dry Socket but Probably Should
If you’re concerned about the possibility of developing a dry socket as a result of having your third molars extracted, it is a valid concern. However, one could argue that allowing them to remain intact can potentially lead to dental problems that are even more serious, including pericoronitis. And this is especially true if third molars become impacted, come in crooked, or cause other teeth to shift out of position. Besides, if you have the misfortune of developing a dry socket after wisdom teeth removal, there are at-home and professional dental treatments that can help.
For those who are worried about the pain associated with wisdom teeth removal, you should know that the process is not nearly as painful as you might think. Before the procedure ever gets underway, the dental practitioner will first numb the gums with a local anesthetic, such as lidocaine or novocaine, to ensure the extraction is as comfortable as possible. Some will also use intravenous therapy (IV) or general anesthesia to minimize pain before, during, and immediately after an extraction. Additionally, most practitioners follow these same pain management protocols when extracting severely decayed non-molars as well.
What to Expect During Wisdom Teeth Removal
Whether we are talking about a severely decayed tooth or third molar, the extraction process is nearly identical for both. After administering a local anesthetic or another type of sedative, the dentist will start the process of pulling the patient’s problem tooth or teeth, which entails either a simple or surgical extraction. The differences between these two approaches to tooth extraction are as follows:
Simple extractions – This type of extraction is best suited for removing teeth that are visible, meaning they have fully or partially erupted from the gums. During a simple extraction, a dentist or oral surgeon will use a device known as an elevator to loosen the tooth. From there, they will use forceps to firmly grasp the tooth and pull it from supporting bones and gum tissue.
Surgical extractions – This approach is ideal for extracting third molars that have become impacted as well as non-third molars that have broken at the gum line due to dental trauma. Surgical extractions will require that a dentist or oral surgeon cut away some of the patient’s gum tissue to gain access to the tooth that they plan to extract from the oral cavity. From there, the process is similar to that of a simple extraction. The practitioner will use an elevator to loosen the tooth before using forceps to extract it from the supporting bones and gums.
How Long Does a Tooth Extraction Take?
As far as timeframe, a single-tooth extraction, either a simple or surgical one, typically takes between 20 and 40 minutes to complete. If a patient needs to have multiple teeth extracted, each additional tooth will add another 3 to 15 minutes to the total extraction time. If the dentist or oral surgeon administers an IV or general anesthesia ahead of the extraction, the overall extraction process is much longer. After completing a simple or surgical tooth extraction, the dentist or oral surgeon will then pack the resulting hole left in the gums with gauze to reduce bleeding. They may also use dissolvable stitches to reduce the size of the hole in the gums if it is too large.
Tooth Extraction Recovery Time
On average, the tooth extraction recovery time is 3 to 4 weeks, which is, coincidentally, about how long it takes for gum tissue to heal. During the first two to three days of this recovery time is also when blood clots form on the gums. And they play a critical role in lowering an individual’s chances of developing a dry socket. For this reason, most dentists and oral surgeons alike will advise patients to avoid strenuous activity after an extraction. And this makes sense considering that overexertion of any kind could interfere with this critical aspect of the healing process.
See Also: Tooth Extraction Healing Time
Cost of Wisdom Teeth Removal
When it comes to the cost associated with wisdom teeth removal, you should know that the procedure is one that is covered by most major dental insurance providers. As far as the breakdown of wisdom tooth removal cost, the average cost of a simple extraction using a local anesthetic is between $75 and $200 per tooth. Surgical extractions, on the other hand, can range from $225 to $500 per tooth. Continuing with costs, tooth extractions that involve the use of general anesthesia or intravenous therapy, either for a simple or surgical extraction, are considerably more expensive. Lastly, if a patient’s teeth or gums are infected, the overall cost will be even higher as clearing up the infection will require the use of prescription antibiotics. Some of the ones commonly prescribed by most dental practitioners include the following:
See Also: Cost of Wisdom Teeth Removal
Dodging a Dry Socket: How to Care for Your Tooth Extraction Site
Now that we are more familiar with what extracting a tooth entails, the cost involved, and, lastly, answered the question of what is a dry socket, let’s take a look at how to avoid dry socket problems. When a patient wants to know how to not get dry socket after undergoing an extraction, most dentists and oral surgeons will usually advise the following:
Not spitting or rinsing out the mouth – Whether we are discussing a wisdom tooth blood clot or blood clots that occur after having any other tooth extracted, you should avoid doing things that could cause them to become dislodged. Some of the more notable ones include not spitting or rinsing the mouth during the first 24 hours following the extraction.
Not smoking – Those who smoke should be mindful of the risk of smoking after tooth extraction. Studies show that inhaling and exhaling cigarette smoke can cause a tooth extraction blood clot to become dislodged, which invariably leads to a dry socket.
Not taking aspirin – While your first thought might be to reach for aspirin as a way to combat tooth extraction pain, doing so is not recommended. Instead, it would be better to take prescription-based medication as prescribed by a dental practitioner or over-the-counter ibuprofen. In short, aspirin acts as a blood thinner, which means that it can interfere with the formation of blood clots. And this not only slows down healing but also increases the likelihood of developing a dry socket.
While there are many other ways to prevent dry socket pain and other complications following a tooth extraction, those detailed in this article are among the most effective.
Dry Socket Complications
Despite their best efforts and closely following the recommendations of a licensed dentist or oral surgeon, some individuals will, unfortunately, still develop dry sockets anyway. And along with everything mentioned so far, having a dry socket causes some of the following complications and symptoms as well:
- Severe halitosis
- A foul-tasting mouth
- The appearance of visible bone tissue in the oral cavity
- Excruciating pain radiating from the extraction site
Much like the enumeration of dry socket causes, this article details only a few of the complications and symptoms that are usually synonymous with a dry socket. To learn about others and to also discover ways to prevent dry sockets from occurring in the first place, it would be a good idea to speak with a licensed dentist or oral surgeon.
Dry Socket After Tooth Extraction Treatment Options:
What to Do if You Have a Dry Socket Due to a Failed Wisdom Tooth Blood Clot
Although the ill-effects that occur when a tooth extraction blood clot becomes dislodge or dissolves and eventually causes a dry socket, not to mention pain and other complications, there are dry socket treatments that can provide some much-needed relief. And they also go a long way toward ensuring a healthy socket after extraction. Some of these treatments, which can benefit those who have had their third molars or other teeth extracted, include the following:
Eating softer foods – Consuming soft foods, such as yogurt, applesauce, and pudding, eliminates the need to bite down or chew as forcefully, which allows dislodged or dissolved blood clots to start forming again.
Sleeping in an optimal position – Another way to combat the ill-effects of a dry socket is to sleep with your head propped up on one or two pillows. Doing so improves blood circulation and, similar to consuming softer foods, allows new blood clots to form on the gum tissue.
Oral hygiene – Even though your gums are still tender, you will want to continue to floss regularly and brush your teeth twice per day. These essential wisdom teeth removal recovery tips recommended by dentists, oral surgeons, and even hygienists can help prevent a dry socket by keeping the oral cavity as clean as possible. Further, regular brushing and flossing lowers the risk of gum infection and facilitates the development of new blood clots.
Rinsing with a warm saline solution – Just like brushing and flossing, rinsing your mouth out a few times each day with a mixture of warm water and salt can help keep gum infection at bay while allowing new blood clots to take form.
Taking medication – To ease the pain associated with a dislodged or dissolved blood clot, you will want to take pain relievers as prescribed by your dentist or oral surgeon. Similarly, taking over-the-counter ibuprofen as directed can also help provide some much-needed pain relief.
Final Thoughts on How to Prevent Dry Socket After Tooth Extraction
In summary, following the wisdom teeth removal recovery tips recommended by your dentist or oral surgeon can significantly speed up healing and also reduce the likelihood of developing dry sockets after a tooth extraction. To recap, some of the most important ones include the following:
- Understanding the risk of smoking after tooth extraction
- Practicing good oral hygiene habits
- Consuming softer foods
- Avoiding aspirin
- Sleeping in an optimal position
- Knowing how to identify an unhealthy versus healthy socket after extraction
Of course, if you still have questions regarding what is dry socket, ways to prevent dry socket, or how do you get dry socket, you’re encouraged to schedule a consultation with Omega Dental Specialists today.