While only 2 to 5% of people get dry socket after wisdom teeth removal, it is a painful experience that prolongs healing.

It’s only natural that you’d want to avoid it. Knowing how to prevent dry sockets will ease your concerns and help your healing so that you can back to your regular life as soon as possible.

Read on to learn what a dry socket is and how to avoid dry sockets upon getting your wisdom teeth removed.

What Is Dry Socket

What are dry sockets anyway? A socket is a hole in your bone where your wisdom tooth was removed. Usually your blood clots and heals over in this hole. Dry socket, or alveolar osteitis, occurs when that blood clot gets dislodged and exposes the socket and nerves to air, food, and bacteria.

Dry socket results in slower healing post-surgery, and it’s more likely to occur for lower wisdom teeth extraction than upper ones.

Symptoms of dry socket include bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, a dry opening where the blood clot should be, and most notably, excessive pain. This pain has been described as throbbing or radiating and may extend from the socket up to your ear.

Symptoms usually become noticeable about two days after the surgery.

What Causes Dry Socket

A dry socket can be caused by anything that dislodges the blood clot from the socket before it has time to heal. Common culprits include suction from straws or food getting lodged in the site. Other forms of disruption or dislodging may be bad hygiene, spitting, coughing, and sneezing.

Some studies show that birth control pills also increase the chances of getting dry socket. If you take birth control pills, you should tell your dentist in advance.

How to Prevent Dry Socket

If you’re about to undergo wisdom teeth recovery, then you probably want to know how to avoid getting dry sockets. Following are the best tips for preventing dry sockets, but make sure to refer to your dentist’s surgical instructions.

Eat the Right Food

Dry socket prevention starts with eating the right food to promote proper healing. After tooth extractions, the right food is anything that’s soft and doesn’t require much chewing. Great examples to stock up on in advance include broth, mashed potatoes, ice cream, applesauce, yogurt, mashed beans, and smoothies.

You’ll want to avoid crunchy or hard foods that require much chewing for at least the first week after your surgery. These foods can dislodge the blood clot, get lodged in its place, and will likely hurt to eat all around.

Avoid Straws and Smoking

To prevent dry socket, you’ll also want to avoid any types of suction that can suck the blood clot out of place. One of the biggest suction culprits to avoid is straws. The air from the straw and the motion your mouth makes to drink from one can risk causing dry socket.

You should avoid drinking from a straw for at least a week after surgery.

Smoking is another large cause of dry socket. In fact, smokers are 12% likely to get dry socket – more than double the chance of non-smokers. This includes smoking any type of product, not just cigarettes.

Tobacco can, however, also disrupt the healing process. You can try to quit smoking in the weeks following your wisdom teeth extraction if you lessen the amount you smoke the weeks prior. You can also use nicotine patches – but not nicotine gum.

Keep the Area Clean

Dental hygiene is always important, but it is especially after tooth extraction. Brushing your teeth and keeping the area clean will help prevent bacteria from entering the wound, harming the clot, or causing infection.

Your ortho surgeon will provide you with instructions on how to brush your teeth. You’ll likely be told to avoid brushing for day one, then to brush regularly but gently the following days.

You can also do regular saltwater rinses and may be prescribed an antibacterial mouthwash.

Rinse With a Syringe

Your ortho surgeon may also provide you with a curved syringe for rinsing the wound site. You’ll want to wait 5 days before using the syringe so that the blood clot is solidly in place. Then, you’ll still rinse gently to avoid dislodging it.

Rinsing the extraction area with the syringe will help remove trapped food.

Don’t Get Teeth Extracted While Sick

An important consideration to prevent dry socket is to never schedule a wisdom tooth extraction while you’re sick; always wait until you’re better. This is because sneezing and coughing are violent mouth motions that can dislodge the healing blood clot. It’s also better for your healing for your body to be in good condition.

If you have heavy allergies, make sure to ask your dentist about any precautions you should take.

Get Plenty of Rest

Getting a lot of rest is optimal when healing from a wisdom tooth extraction. Sleep is when your body heals, so the more sleep you can squeeze in the better. You’ll also be moving your mouth the least in your sleep, so it’s a good opportunity for the wound to heal over.

If you can, try not to talk too much in the first 24 hours after your surgery. Also, keep gauze on the wound site in your mouth until the bleeding stops. Both of these will help give the blood clot time to form and settle in.

It’s recommended that you avoid exercising at all in the days following your surgery as raising your heart rate may cause unnecessary bleeding and complications.

Now You Know How to Avoid Dry Sockets

Now you know how to avoid dry sockets, and knowing is always the first step of prevention.

As long as you follow the tips in this article, healing after your wisdom tooth removal will be much easier. If you are still experiencing any excessive pain or bleeding a few days after the surgery, or if the pain suddenly gets worse, call your dentist or surgeon immediately to schedule a follow-up.

Are you in need of a wisdom tooth extraction or other dental surgery? Check out our expert dental services today.