After you have a tooth removed, a blood clot forms in the empty tooth socket. This clot prevents liquid and air from coming directly into contact with the nerves and bone located in the socket until new gum tissue grows over them. Sometimes, the blood clot unfortunately becomes dislodged, leading to a very painful condition known as dry socket. While you cannot completely guarantee that dry socket won't happen to you, there are a few ways to reduce your risk after having a tooth extracted.
Don't use a straw.
When your mouth is sore following an extraction, you're likely to reach for a lot of soft foods and drinks like smoothies and milkshakes. Resist the urge to suck these foods through a straw. Doing so puts pressure on the clot in your tooth socket and may cause it to loosen, leading to dry socket. Sip directly from the cup until you are fully healed.
Rinsing your mouth out with salt water or an antiseptic rinse that your dentist has prescribed is a great way to lower your risk of infection and speed healing. There's a right way and a wrong way to rinse, however. Closing your mouth and vigorously swishing the liquid through your teeth and around your mouth is the wrong way – you might dislodge that blood clot. The right way to rinse is to gently let the liquid flow around in your mouth, moving it gently with just your tongue rather than "pumping" with your cheeks. As long as it's coming into contact with your mouth surface, it's doing its job – there's no need for force.
Leave it alone.
If you're like most people, you'll be thinking about your extraction site constantly in the first few days after the procedure, and your tongue will constantly be darting back and forth over it. Do your best to avoid this, since it may contribute to loosening of the blood clot. Try playing with some clay with your hands when you're idle. This will keep your brain focused on something else, so you're less likely to mindlessly play with your tongue.
Say "no" to smoking.
If you're smoker who has been hoping to quit, there has never been a better time to do it! Smoking after a tooth extraction greatly increases your risk of dry socket, both because of the suction created when you inhale, and because of the damage tobacco causes to your mouth tissues. Use a nicotine patch if you can't fight the cravings; chewing nicotine gum is better than smoking, but is still not ideal.
Unfortunately, even if you do follow these general dentistry guidelines, there is a small chance you'll develop dry socket anyways. If you suddenly develop a shooting pain in the empty socket, you can bet that dry socket is to blame. Contact a dental practice that special dentist promptly for treatment.