If you’re worried that a tooth extraction can be a painful process, you may not be wrong. While you’re typically under anesthesia for the extraction process, once you wake up, the healing begins. Healing from a surgical tooth extraction, like when you have your wisdom teeth removed, can sometimes be very painful if you aren’t careful. Doing things like eating too soon, not cleaning the wound, or not using gauze can cause pain and prolong the healing process. One complication that can come from a surgical tooth extraction is a dry socket. This is a very rare side effect that only develops in less than five percent of patients.

When a tooth is surgically extracted, a blood clot forms in the socket to protect everything under the gum line. If this blood clot gets dislodged or removed, you are experiencing a dry socket. This can be extremely painful because now you have exposed nerves in your mouth. These nerves now feel any food, water, or even air that comes into your mouth, leaving you with severe pain and a large risk for infection.

There are few things you can do to prevent a dry socket and save yourself the pain that comes with it. First, avoid drinking from a straw or rinsing you’re your mouth for a few days. You should also follow all post-operation instructions provided to you. A big cause of dry sockets is from patients who do not put pressure on the gauze for long enough, thus not allowing enough time for a blood clot to form and protect the socket. Lastly, avoid certain foods. For the few days following your surgical extraction, avoid crunchy food, anything you need to drink through a straw, or hot liquids. These foods can cause the blood clot to be dislodged and bring about a dry socket.

If you have taken the necessary precautions but still believe your pain is stemming from a dry socket, call your dentist. They can either prescribe you medication to control the pain, or dress the wound to promote healing and prevent the nerves from any further exposure. Don’t let yourself experience unnecessary pain after an extraction and avoid dry sockets.