Most people will have at least one adult tooth pulled in their lifetime for one reason or another. Generally, dentists remove teeth to provide more space for other teeth, prevent future crowding or other problems, and clear a damaged, dead or irreparable tooth from the mouth. With advances in dentistry, the process of tooth extraction is pretty much pain free these days. After the removal, there will be some pain and tenderness in the area, but severe, intense pain may be a sign that you may have a dry socket, or alveolar osteitis.
When a tooth is pulled, there is a hole left in the gum and jaw bone. After surgery, a blood clot will form in this hole to protect the otherwise exposed bone and nerves. A dry socket occurs when the blood clot dislodges or dissolves, typically about two days after the tooth has been extracted. The exposure of the nerves to air, food, and liquid can cause extreme pain and possible infection. If you suspect that you have a dry socket, you should return to your dentist for treatment. They will clean out any debris, use a special paste, fill the hole with a medical dressing, and prescribe pain medication and maybe even antibiotics.
The best way to prevent dry sockets is to obey all the post procedure instructions given by your dentist. You should avoid excessive rinsing and spitting, especially forcefully until the wound has begun to close properly. Also, drinking through a straw or other sucking actions, like smoking, are the main reason many people get dry sockets. Other things can make one more susceptible as well. Those with poor dental hygiene, a history of previous dry sockets, and those taking birth control pills have a higher risk. Wisdom teeth extractions have a greater chance of getting dry sockets than other teeth. Changing your habits and taking extra care for less than a week can make the difference in whether or not you experience a dry socket after surgery. Pay close attention to the area and watch it carefully for several days. If you suspect that something is wrong, it probably is. Be sure to see the dentist immediately.