If you think you’re suffering from the pain of a dry socket after tooth extraction, it’s possible that the cause is a particle of food that’s stuck there.

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A Stuck Food Particle May Cause a Dry Socket

“Yes, it can,” says Dr. Haissam Dahan, DMD, MSc, PhD, lecturer at Harvard and McGill University and owner of Ottawa TMJ & Sleep Apnea Clinic.

“That’s why it’s very important to listen and follow the instructions that your dentist gives you after teeth removal, which usually include eating a soft diet, rinsing gently with salt water and avoid smoking (a big reason why people end up with dry socket),” explains Dr. Dahan.

What exactly is a dry socket?

Sometimes after a wisdom or other tooth removal, a dry socket develops, though it occurs in only two to five percent of patients.

The hole in the bone where your tooth was removed is called a socket. A blood clot forms—and it’s supposed to—in this socket after the extraction of a tooth.

The blood clot protects the bone and nerves below it and is crucial for proper healing.

But if the protective clot moves off its position or dissolves prematurely, the bone and nerves will be exposed to food particles (and anything else that enters the mouth such as air).

The result may be a lot of pain due to infection, though this typically lasts five or six days. But the pain may spread to the ear.

After having any tooth removed … you must adhere to your dentist’s dietary and other aftercare guidelines.

This means no munchies, chips, pretzels, nuts, seeds, crackers, popcorn, apples or anything else that is crispy or crunchy. But eat up on the mashed potatoes, apple sauce, yogurt and pudding.

A food particle that gets stuck in the area where the protective blood clot is can interfere with the clot’s function in the dry socket.

Dr. Dahan is a general dentist with a focus on TMJ disorder, facial pain, snoring and sleep apnea management.