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If you have an oral health problem which severely damages a tooth, that tooth may need to be extracted from your mouth. Afterwards, a blood clot forms in the extraction site which covers and protects the bone and nerves, allowing the area to heal. However, if this blood clot is displaced, it can result in a painful condition called dry socket, where the bones and nerves are exposed and the tissue often becomes infected. Here are a few of the factors that increase your risk for developing this condition:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco. Doing so delays healing to the mouth and can contaminate the extraction site.
  • Using medications like oral contraceptives or corticosteroids.
  • Having a current gum or tooth infection.
  • Failure to follow proper, at-home care. Your dentist will give you instructions for taking care of the extraction site which, if not followed, increase your risk for developing dry socket. Some of these instructions include:
    • Avoiding rinsing your mouth for 24 hours. When you do rinse your mouth, do so gently, using salt water.
    • Avoiding disturbing the extraction site with your tongue or by chewing food near it.
    • Avoiding using a straw for at least 24 hours.
    • Avoiding rigorous exercise and activities.

If you do develop the pain and infection that is dry socket, see your dentist as soon as possible for treatment.