Posted on: 17 November 2016
For smokers, getting a tooth extracted comes with an additional challenge. You are faced with the glaring questions: When is it okay to smoke? When is it safe? While most dentists recommend waiting at least 48 hours before smoking, for some smokers, this may be too long.
However, if you are unable to refrain from smoking for 48 hours, you run the risk of dry socket. Dry socket, as the name suggests, occurs when the blood clot that forms after an extraction either dissolves or is dislodged. When this happens, the nerves and bone tissue of the extraction site are exposed, and it is only a matter of time before infection sets in.
If this happens, you need to seek treatment immediately. Otherwise you could be in for a long and painful, not to mention costly, recovery.
Consider the following alternatives before smoking.
Take the Opportunity to Quit
You could also use your extraction as an opportunity to quit smoking. Withdrawal symptoms tend to fade completely after one month. However, it's understandable that such an extreme measure may well be unthinkable, especially after the stress of having a tooth extracted. The first thing on your mind when exiting the dental practice after an extraction will probably be your next cigarette.
While you cannot completely avoid the risk of dry socket and subsequent infection, you can reduce the risk by doing the following.
Use Nicotine Patches Instead
Using nicotine patches before and after surgery can help to reduce withdrawal symptoms, giving you the nicotine your body craves until it is safe to smoke again.
Cover the Socket with Gauze While Smoking
If you can't hold off from smoking, use a wet, sterile section of gauze (tap water is okay) to cover the extraction site as you smoke.
Follow these steps to smoke safely, while using gauze:
1. Prepare the Gauze
Cut out a square of gauze for each extraction wound. Soak the gauze with cold water.
2. Place Gauze
Gently place the gauze over the extraction site.
3. Bite Down Gently
Seal the extraction wound by biting down on the gauze, gritting your teeth with as little force as possible.
4. Inhale Gently
Purse your lips and inhale slowly, with as little suction as possible.
Smoking in this manner after an extraction, while not as effective as refraining from smoking, will protect the wound in two ways. Firstly, the protective layer of wet gauze will prevent some of the smoke from reaching the wound. Studies have shown that cigarette smoke can hinder the healing process of extraction sockets.
Secondly, according to webmd.com, the suction involved in smoking a cigarette may dislodge the blood clot so essential to protecting the underlining bone and nerves from infection, therefore biting down on wet gauze while smoking will at least reduce the pressure on the wound.
If despite your best efforts you suspect you may have dry socket, identifiable by the presence of pain around the extraction site, swollen lymph nodes or bad breath, contact your dentist as soon as possible. The sooner your dentist treats the problem, the sooner any infection can be dealt with, possibly saving you from weeks of pain.Share