Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

You can help promote healing and reduce symptoms during treatment of dry socket by following your dentist's or oral surgeon's instructions for self-care. You'll likely be told to:

  • Take pain medications as prescribed
  • Avoid smoking or using tobacco products
  • Drink plenty of clear liquids to remain hydrated and to prevent nausea that may be associated with some pain medications
  • Rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water several times a day
  • Brush your teeth gently around the dry socket area
  • Use caution with eating or drinking, avoid carbonated beverages, and avoid smoking or using a straw to prevent dislodging the dressing

Prevention

What you can do before surgery

You can take these steps to help prevent dry socket:

  • Seek a dentist or oral surgeon with experience in tooth extractions.
  • If applicable, try to stop smoking before your extraction because smoking and using other tobacco products increase your risk of dry socket. Consider talking to your doctor or dentist about a program to help you quit permanently.
  • Talk to your dentist or oral surgeon about any prescription or over-the-counter medications or supplements you're taking, as they may interfere with blood clotting.

What your dentist or oral surgeon may do

Your dentist or oral surgeon will take a number of steps to ensure proper healing of the socket and to prevent dry socket. These steps may include recommending one or more of these medications, which may help prevent dry socket:

  • Antibacterial mouthwashes or gels immediately before and after surgery
  • Oral antibiotics, particularly if you have a compromised immune system
  • Antiseptic solutions applied to the wound
  • Medicated dressings applied after surgery

What you can do after surgery

You'll receive instructions about what to expect during the healing process after a tooth extraction and how to care for the wound. Proper at-home care after a tooth extraction helps promote healing and prevent damage to the wound. These instructions will likely address the following issues, which can help prevent dry socket:

  • Activity. After your surgery, plan to rest for the remainder of the day. Follow your dentist's or oral surgeon's recommendations about when to resume normal activities and how long to avoid rigorous exercise and sports that might result in dislodging the blood clot in the socket.
  • Pain management. Put cold packs on the outside of your face on the first day after extraction and warm packs after that, to help decrease pain and swelling. Follow your dentist's or oral surgeon's instructions on applying cold or heat to your face. Take pain medications as prescribed.
  • Beverages. Drink lots of water after the surgery. Avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, carbonated or hot beverages for as long as your dentist or oral surgeon recommends. Don't drink with a straw for at least a week because the sucking action may dislodge the blood clot in the socket.
  • Food. Eat only soft foods, such as yogurt or applesauce, for the first day. Be careful with hot and cold liquids or biting your cheek until the anesthesia wears off. Start eating semisoft foods when you can tolerate them. Avoid chewing on the surgery side of your mouth.
  • Cleaning your mouth. After surgery, you may gently rinse your mouth and brush your teeth, but avoid the extraction site for the first 24 hours. After the first 24 hours, gently rinse your mouth with warm salt several times a day for a week after your surgery. Mix 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 milliliters) of table salt in 8 ounces (237 milliliters) of water. Follow the instructions of your dentist or oral surgeon.
  • Tobacco use. If you smoke or use tobacco, don't do so for at least 48 hours after surgery and as long as you can after that. Any use of tobacco products after oral surgery can delay healing and increase the risk of complications.