A common question that patients ask regarding the recovery from wisdom teeth removal is “what is dry socket and how can I avoid it?”. Most people have heard of dry sockets because they have friends or family members who have suffered from it. Some patients have heard horror stories about dry sockets and are definitely terrified that it will happen to them, and they definitely should be terrified! I have had patients tell me that the pain is a 10 out of 10, so this type of complication is definitely something you want to avoid.
Typically, smokers and adults are at higher risk for dry sockets. This is one of the reasons why it is advantageous to have your wisdom teeth removed as a teenager. The chances are incredibly slim that a teenager who does not smoke would develop dry socket. I have removed over 10,000 sets of wisdom teeth in my career and I do not recall an instance of a teenager developing dry socket unless they were a smoker.
Tips to avoid Dry Socket
The next piece of advice I would give you to avoid dry socket is do NOT smoke! Dry socket complications are highly related to smoking. So if you are planning to get your wisdom teeth removed, do not smoke or vape for one to two weeks heading into the procedure. The chemicals inhaled from smoking and vaping have a tendency to prevent the blood clot from developing and can really interfere with the healing process. Definitely do not smoke before and after your procedure.
Another very important piece of advice is to avoid sucking through straws and engaging in any type of sucking motion. This type of negative pressure can disrupt the blood clot that develops. When wisdom teeth are removed they are pulled from the jaws and blood immediately starts coming into the socket area and begins to form a blood clot. A sucking motion too soon after the procedure can dislodge the blood clot and exposes the dry bone in that area with the nerves associated. This exposure is what makes dry socket extremely painful. So to reiterate, avoid any sort of sucking motion.
Another piece of advice similarly along those lines is to not spit excessively. Sometimes patients taste blood and keep spitting. This is not helpful to trying to develop a blood clot and can result in dry socket.
A final piece of advice is to follow a soft diet for several days after the procedure. After the procedure, when the blood clot in the area has been established, it is very important to let it heal completely without disrupting it. Following a liquid and soft food diet will help protect the blood clot during the healing process.
In summary, factors that affect recovery from wisdom teeth removal:
- Do NOT smoke
- Avoid “sucking” motions (like using straws)
- Do not spit excessively
- Follow a soft food diet for several days post-procedure