If you're having a tooth extracted and your dental professional is recommending a socket preservation procedure, you may be wondering what exactly that means. Why can't they simply remove the tooth and let it heal on its own? We'll break down why socket preservation is done, what you can expect from the operation, and give you some tips for aftercare so you can feel confident you're getting treatment that will keep you smiling.
How Socket Preservation Helps After A Tooth Extraction
If your dental professional is recommending tooth extraction, it may be because of:
- A Damaged Tooth
If you have a damaged or broken tooth that your dental professional deems is beyond repair, they will likely recommend its removal.
- Tooth Decay
Likewise, if your tooth has decayed to the point that it can no longer be treated with a filling, root canal, or crown, it may be best for your oral health to have it pulled.
- Periodontal Disease
When bacteria builds up and forms plaque underneath the gums, it can cause gum disease. Its severe form is called periodontal disease, and it can erode your gum tissue and bone. This can cause your teeth to loosen and potentially require their extraction.
- Crowded Teeth
If you have a smaller jaw that doesn't fit all of your teeth, if you have extra teeth, or if you have a tooth growing into or on top of the tooth next to it – your dental professional may extract a tooth to eliminate overcrowding.
According to a study published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, tooth decay and periodontal disease were the most common causes of extraction in their study population.
Learn more about tooth extraction.
Your bones have two kinds of cells that do all the work to remodel your skeleton as needed. Osteoclasts break down old bone and deliver it into your bloodstream (resorption), and osteoblasts build your bone where it needs to be reinforced (ossification). Bones are reinforced through osseointegration, where they are used the most. For your jawbone, when you chew and bite, the force you exert through your teeth into your jaws sends signals to osteoblasts to keep that bone strong.
After your tooth extraction, your jawbone will no longer receive stimuli where your tooth once was, osteoclasts will begin to break down your jawbone, and osteoblasts will no longer prioritize rebuilding the bone structure there. New bone will still form, but at a slower rate than the bone that is being destroyed. This can cause your other teeth to shift and can create complications if you decide to get a dental implant in the future.
Socket preservation can either utilize a collagen plug as a hole filler or a bone grafting procedure to preserve your jaw in the area where your tooth was extracted. This graft can be made of synthetic material, bone from other animals (usually a cow), or human bone. After your dental professional puts the bone graft in your socket, they usually cover it up with a layer of collagen, and then they suture your gum tissue.
Not all dental professionals consider it a necessary or valuable procedure, and some don't offer it at the time of extraction at all. According to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, there isn't sufficient evidence that it leads to higher dental implant success rates or improved long-term health. If you are interested in the procedure, or your dental professional has recommended it for you, it's worth discussing the pros and cons so you can come to a decision together.
After your socket preservation procedure, you can expect to experience pain and discomfort for about a week or two. Your dental professional may prescribe medication for pain and swelling. Some tips to ensure a successful recovery include:
- Rest for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
- Raise your head slightly when lying down.
- Avoid rinsing your mouth right away, as it can affect your healing time.
- Avoid drinking with a straw and spitting.
- Avoid hot liquids and or alcohol.
- If possible, avoid blowing your nose and sneezing.
- Don't smoke or use any tobacco products for at least three days following the procedure.
- Take pain relievers as prescribed. They can also reduce inflammation.
- Reduce or minimize swelling with an ice pack on your cheek for 10-20 minutes at a time.
- After a few days, you can rinse your mouth with a saline rinse or warm salt water to kill bacteria.
- Continue regular brushing and using water flossers or interdental brushes, but avoid cleaning the teeth next to your extraction area.
- Eat soft, healthy foods and snacks that don't require a lot of chewing, like soups, yogurts, and similar foods. Avoid foods like nuts, hard candy, steak, and chewing on ice.
If the pain doesn't seem to be subsiding after a week or two, or your condition concerns you, call your dental professional for a follow-up appointment. Tooth extraction and socket preservation are straightforward procedures. As long as you follow your dental professional's advice, you should recover and be smiling about your oral health in no time.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.