After an extraction, swallowing precautions are NOT required to prevent dry socket because it’s not a potential risk factor. Therefore, you may swallow normally without having to worry about getting it.
How to do it:
- Close your mouth.
- Swallow your saliva or food.
You may swallow normally without risking a dry socket and we will explain why it is unlikely to occur. Also, rather than thinking about how to swallow there are other things which are much more likely to cause it. You should spend your mental energy worrying about those factors instead.
Can swallowing cause dry socket?
It is impossible to cause a dry socket from swallowing because the condition is biologically induced and not mechanically caused. The condition is characterized as a socket without a blood clot and people often believe the suction from swallowing can dislodge the clot thus inducing it. However that is false because mechanically dislodging the clot cannot cause it.
Biologically induced condition
Studies have shown that dry socket is initiated via a biological process and mechanically disrupting the clot has no bearing on it developing. That means physically disrupting the blood clot by increasing intra-oral pressure such as swallowing will not cause it.
The study which we listed above actually shows how drinking through a straw does not cause dry socket. The suction pressure from using a straw is often mistakenly believed to be able to cause it but the study has proved it to be false.
That is good news because swallowing generates significantly less suction pressure than using a straw! In other words, you won’t get it from swallowing nor other activities which create suction pressure in the mouth.
Oral activities that generate mouth pressure:
- Drinking with a straw
The exact etiology for dry socket (alveolar osteitis) is currently unknown and there are only theories as to how you get it. Nonetheless, researchers have been able to identify certain risk factors that increase your chance of getting it.
- Smoking. Studies have shown that smokers (12%) are 3 times more likely to get a dry socket than non-smokers (4%). So try not to smoke please.
- Traumatic extraction. Difficult surgical extractions seem to increase the incidence of it.
- Birth control. Studies have shown that the incidence of alveolar osteitis was significantly higher for those taking birth control.
- Middle of Menstrual cycle. In addition to taking birth control, researchers also found that women during the middle of a menstrual cycle were more likely to get it.
- Previous history. If you’ve had this condition in the past, you’re more likely to get it again. You should be extra cautious if that is the case.
In summary, if you’re trying to avoid a dry socket, you should minimize the above risk factors.
What is okay to swallow?
When we say it is okay to swallow normally, that includes your saliva AND blood. Some people may think that it is gross to swallow your own blood but there is actually nothing wrong with doing so.
However if the idea really grosses you out and you absolutely refuse to do it, you still shouldn’t spit it out. Excessive spitting may potentially dislodge the blood clot and you’ll end up with persistent bleeding. If you do need to expel the blood, you should let it drip out of your mouth by gravity only. Do not forcefully spit!
Aside from your saliva and blood, there is just one thing that you shouldn’t swallow and that is the gauze. The gauze which you bite on is made of cotton fibers which means that it will not breakdown nor get absorbed in the GI track. If you accidentally swallow it, hopefully you’ll defecate it back out because if you don’t, you may need it surgically removed.
Can it dislodge the blood clot?
Normal swallowing of saliva or food is unlikely to dislodge the blood clot because it doesn’t create enough pressure. However swallowing by drinking through a straw can certainly create enough suction pressure to dislodge the clot. That is why it is forbidden to use a straw for the first 24 hours after your extraction. That is a part of the aftercare protocol.
From our personal clinical experience, we’ve never had a patient who dislodged a blood clot from swallowing. We’ve also never heard of any cases of it happening either. Most of the incidences were due to using a straw, spitting, or rinsing within the first 24 hours.
Consequence of dislodged clot
If you manage to dislodge your blood clot, you won’t get a dry socket but you will get persistent bleeding. The entire purpose of leaving the clot undisturbed is so that you don’t bleed excessively. A mature clot is what makes the bleeding stop.
Therefore if you disrupt it before it matures, the socket will continue to bleed. Your top priority after the tooth extraction is to stop the bleeding because if it goes on for too long, it can be life threatening.
If the socket resumes bleeding due to a missing clot, you must consequently resume biting on gauze. That is the best way to get it to stop oozing.
Swallowing your saliva or food will not cause a dry socket because the condition is not mechanically induced. It is a biological process that occurs which is mostly out of your control.
Therefore you should rest assured that it is safe to eat and swallow your food. If it wasn’t safe to do so, you’d need to go on a diet for about a week which doesn’t make a lot of sense does it?