Extraction of teeth may be recommended for a number of reasons, including a damaged tooth, overcrowding, or incoming wisdom teeth. Having a tooth pulled is a relatively simple procedure, but patients should be aware of certain issues that may occur during the healing process. The most common complication after a tooth extraction is dry socket. Learning about this condition and the steps you can take to prevent it will help your recovery proceed smoothly.
The Tooth Extraction Process
If one of your teeth is broken or damaged, trying to fix it with dental treatments is the first step. This can include fillings and crowns as well as other dental procedures. If these treatments are not able to repair the damage, then the tooth may need to be removed. There are two basic kinds of extraction: simple and surgical.
- Simple extraction – When a tooth can be seen in the mouth, a simple extraction is used to remove it. During this procedure, your dentist uses a tool called an elevator to loosen the tooth. It is then removed using forceps.
- Surgical extraction – For teeth that have not erupted or that broke off at the gum line, a more complicated surgical extraction is required. During this procedure, an oral surgeon makes a small incision in the gum tissue and surgically removes the tooth.
What is Dry Socket?
Dry socket can occur after either simple or surgical extraction. After the tooth is removed, a blood clot forms in its place. This blood clot is an important part of the healing process because it helps to protect the nerve endings and bone in the empty tooth socket. Sometimes the blood clot doesn’t form properly, dissolves, or gets dislodged. This is called dry socket. It leaves the bone and nerve endings exposed and more prone to infection. Dry socket slows the recovery process and causes intense pain in the mouth and around the face. It should be treated as quickly as possible by a dental professional, so contact your dentist if the pain from your extraction gets worse, radiates to the rest of your face, or is accompanied by redness, swelling, or fever.
Causes of Dry Socket
It’s often difficult to determine exactly what causes a dry socket to develop. Sometimes trauma or force can dislodge the blood clot from the socket. Certain risk factors increase the likelihood that the blood clot will get dislodged or fail to form, including the following:
- Failure to care for the area properly
- Oral contraceptives
- Smoking and tobacco use
Preventing Dry Socket
Proper care after tooth extraction is key to preventing dry sockets. They usually develop in the first five days after tooth removal, so protecting the area during this time is important. With proper care, you’ll be back to normal soon. Here are some tips for keeping the extraction site clean and healthy during recovery:
- Talk to your dentist about medications – Certain medications can inhibit blood clots, so talk to your dentist about any medications you take to determine if you need to make a change during the recovery period.
- Eat soft food – Eat soft foods and chew carefully during recovery. Try to chew with the teeth on the opposite side of your mouth. Your dentist can give you recommendations about what kinds of foods are okay to eat in the days following extraction.
- Avoid certain beverages – Drink lots of water after having a tooth removed, but don’t drink caffeinated, sugary, or alcoholic beverages.
- Don’t use a straw – Avoid using a straw for at least a week or according to your dentist’s recommendations. The suction created from using a straw can dislodge the blood clot.
- Avoid tobacco – Using tobacco is a common cause of dry socket. Both smoking and chewing slow healing and can lead to painful complications. Smoking increases bacteria in the area, while chewing can disturb the blood clot. Avoid both for at least 24 hours before and after the surgery.
- Brush gently – Wait to clean the extraction site for at least 24 hours. This gives the blood clot a chance to form. Gently brush the rest of your teeth and tongue while avoiding the extraction site.
- Rinse – After 24 hours, begin to rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water or a mouthwash like Oral Essentials Clean and Fresh™ Mouthwash. This helps keep the area clean and gets rid of unwanted bacteria.
- Rest – Plan to rest after your tooth extraction. As the effects of the anesthesia wear off, you’ll probably feel groggy or tired. Depending on the type of extraction, it may take a few days to return to normal activities.
- Avoid contact sports – During recovery, avoid sports and other physical activities that might disturb your mouth.
- Don’t spit – Forceful spitting can dislodge the blood clot and should be avoided after surgery.
- Follow directions provided by your dentist – Always follow your dentist or oral surgeon’s instructions for home care following a tooth extraction.
Managing Pain After Extraction
To help minimize pain and speed your recovery after tooth extraction, follow these tips:
- Use ice – Apply ice packs to your face, alternating twenty minutes on and twenty minutes off. This helps reduce pain and swelling.
- Eat carefully – Choose soft, cool foods in the days following your extraction.
- Swish with salt water – 24 hours after surgery, begin gently swishing with warm salt water. Mix one-half teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water.
- Avoid certain activities – Smoking, spitting, and using a straw can dislodge the blood clot and should be avoided after tooth extraction.
Having a tooth removed sometimes makes people nervous, but with proper care, your recovery is likely to be uneventful. Dry socket hinders the healing process, so take care to follow your dentist’s instructions and the above tips to help avoid the painful problem.
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