As many as 30 percent of patients who undergo wisdom tooth removal will end up with a painful condition known as dry socket. Listening to your dentist’s instructions after surgery is crucial.

If you don’t take proper precautions after your tooth extraction, you might find yourself dealing with unnecessary pain. There could also be a more extended recovery period due to the formation of a dry socket.

Surgery can be intimidating. However, millions of Americans undergo wisdom teeth removal every year, making it one of the most common surgical procedures in the country. 

Wisdom teeth are the last adult teeth to emerge and are also known as third molars. They typically show up between 17 and 25 years of age. However, in an already-crowded mouth, wisdom teeth can struggle to emerge. They can become impacted, and your dentist may suggest their removal.

Impacted wisdom teeth can cause infection, tooth decay, receding gums, and other unpleasant consequences.

Your wisdom tooth surgery may range from the removal of one impacted tooth under local anesthetic or all four under general anesthesia.

Read more to find out what to do to avoid dry socket.

1. What Is Dry Socket?

When you have an adult tooth removed, a blood clot forms at the extraction site. This clot protects the nerves and the bone that may have been exposed during surgery.

Like all blood clots, its role is to prevent excessive bleeding and help the healing process along. It will also prevent infection.

When the blood clot fails to form or is somehow dislodged too early, you can develop a dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis. The condition can be excruciating and cause bad breath. A dry socket usually appears in the first three days after surgery.

Dry socket can occur after any tooth extraction, but it is most common after wisdom teeth removal. You can prevent dry socket with proper wisdom tooth removal aftercare.

Studies have shown that women on birth control are more prone to dry socket.

2. The Right Diet After Wisdom Tooth Removal

One of the most important ways to prevent dry socket is to listen to your dentist’s advice on what to eat and avoid.

Wait to eat anything until the numbness has worn off. The most important thing is to only eat soft, smooth foods as these will not require much chewing. The most common foods enjoyed post-surgery are ice cream, smoothies, mashed bananas or potatoes, or oatmeal.

You can also make scrambled eggs or soup, but don’t eat anything that is too hot as it can dissolve your blood clot and lead to dry socket. You should definitely avoid hard or crunchy foods in the days following surgery.

When you do eat, be sure to avoid chewing on the side of your mouth that was operated on.

3. No Sucking Motions

Avoid any suctioning force on the wound. The worst culprits that cause dry sockets are using straws or smoking. Drinking from a straw puts pressure on the site of the extraction and can cause the blood clot to come out. Wait at least 48 hours after surgery to use a straw.

Smoking is another major problem after wisdom tooth surgery. Studies have shown that smokers get dry socket far more frequently than non-smokers.

Smokers are more likely to get dry socket because of the motion of quickly inhaling cigarette smoke or even marijuana. The chemicals in cigarettes can also slow healing, reduce blood supply, or cause infection.

If you have surgery coming up, start to reduce your tobacco intake in the weeks ahead. If you don’t want to quit smoking, use a nicotine patch after surgery. Wait as long as you can, preferably two or three days, and inhale very gently when you do smoke.

However, no one needs any new reminders on how bad smoking is for your health and your teeth, so maybe this is the opportunity you have been waiting for to quit. 

4. Careful Tooth Cleaning

It is vital to keep your mouth clean to avoid germs reaching the wound and possible infection. Be careful how you clean your mouth and brush your teeth after the removal of your wisdom teeth. Your dentist may prescribe a mouthwash or advise you to use a saline wash during your wisdom tooth removal recovery.

Your dentist will also let you know when it is safe to brush your teeth normally after surgery. Drinking lots of fluid will help keep food particles away from the extraction site.

5. Other Aftercare Instructions

After you have had your wisdom teeth removed, it is best to avoid any exercise. Rest, and sleep with your head inclined to prevent bleeding. Intensive sports should be avoided for several days after surgery.

Use an ice pack on the side of the cheek that was operated on to reduce pain and swelling. Ask your dentist what medication you can take after your surgery. Some pills may prevent successful clotting.

Most importantly, follow the surgical care instructions given by your dentist.

What to Do if You Have Dry Socket

You will know you have dry socket if you start to experience severe pain a few days after your surgery. The pain may radiate to your ear or jaw. You may notice the socket looks empty or even be able to see visible bone. An unpleasant, foul taste in your mouth is also a key symptom.

If you think you have dry socket, or have any other questions related to wisdom tooth removal, contact us now.