While tooth extraction normally helps resolve tooth pain, an extraction site that fails to heal properly can actually cause a lot of pain. The most common type of after-extraction pain is caused by dry socket, a condition that occurs when the blood clot left in the tooth socket after extraction is dislodged too early, leaving the nerves in the area exposed to air, fluid, or food particles. Take a look at some tips to follow before and after your extraction to help prevent dry socket.
Discuss Medications With Your Dentist
Whenever you're dealing with a dental issue, it's important to remember it involves more than just your mouth. All of the parts of your body work together, and what affects one part of your body can also have an effect on another. That means that it's important to discuss your medical conditions and medications with your doctor, even if they don't seem to relate to your mouth. Certain medications can contribute to the development of dry socket.
One example of a medication that can contribute to dry socket is the birth control pill. Studies have shown a 31 percent incidence of dry socket in women taking oral contraceptives, when the surgery takes place during the first 22 days of their menstrual cycle. However, when the extractions took place between day 23 and 28 of the menstrual cycle, the incidence of dry socket plummeted to zero.
That means that women should be sure to inform their dentist of their contraceptive use so that the surgery can be planned for the time of the month that they're least likely to develop dry socket. It's believed that increased estrogen levels are the reason that birth control pills lead to dry socket, so people taking other medications containing estrogen, such as hormone replacement therapy, should also discuss this with their dentist.
If you're a smoker, you are probably well aware of the health risks of the habit. Most likely, your dentist, your doctor, and your friends and family members have all suggested that you quit at one point or another. But if you just can't kick the habit for good, you should at least avoid smoking for a few days before and after your extractions. Cigarettes are a known factor in many cases of dry socket.
There are a few reasons why smoking contributes to the development of dry socket. One reason is that the sucking motion you make with your mouth when you inhale can dislodge the clot in the extraction site – it's the same reason why your dentist will probably recommend that you avoid drinking out of straws in the days following the extraction. However, there's more to it than that.
The nicotine in cigarettes decreases blood flow, which delays healing of all kinds of wounds. After an extraction, your gums need that oxygen-rich blood flow to heal, and they'll get more of it if you are not smoking. The carbon monoxide in cigarettes also impedes healing. Quitting a few days before the procedures will give your body time to clear out those harmful chemicals, and avoiding the cigarettes for a few days after the procedure will promote healing and protect the blood clot in the extraction site.
The truth is, even with a sore mouth, you may very well feel better immediately after an extraction than you did before. The discomfort of an extraction site is often less painful than the throbbing pain of a tooth infection. It's easy to try to jump right back in to the swing of things, rather than taking the time to rest your body, and especially your mouth. But this is a mistake.
Extractions are a form of oral surgery, and just as after any surgery, your body needs time and rest to recover. And moving your mouth a lot – by talking, for example – can dislodge clots in your mouth and contribute to dry socket. So take a break. Avoid unnecessary exercise. Lie down, (with your head propped up on pillows to prevent blood from pooling in your mouth) watch TV, and keep the talking to a minimum for a few days. That way, you'll continue to heal properly and avoid new pain from dry socket.
If you begin to have symptoms of dry socket, such as increased pain, bad breath, or the ability to see bone at the extraction site, go back to your dentist immediately. Dry socket can be treated with wound dressings, and you may need additional pain relief medication. Discuss any concerns you have with a dentist, like one at Dental Associates PC.