Although dry socket or alveolar osteitis is a common complication related to tooth extraction, it is a relatively rare occurrence. Around 2% of people who have undergone tooth extraction suffer from a dry socket. This percentage increases in case of patients who have had their lower wisdom tooth removed. Through this article, we have addressed most of the questions you might have about dry socket.
What Is a Dry Socket or Alveolar Osteitis?
It is a painful complication often seen in people who have had their tooth or teeth extracted. After a tooth has been extracted, a blood clot forms in place of that tooth and protects the underlying nerves, bone, and tissues. In case of a dry socket, this blood clot either doesn’t form at all or it is dislodged leaving the nerves and bones exposed. This results in pain and sometimes swelling.
What Are the Common Causes of Dry Socket?
Alveolar osteitis can be caused due to mechanical, bacterial, chemical or physiological factors. These are described below:
- Mechanical– Aggressive rinsing or spitting, sucking through a straw or dragging while smoking.
- Bacterial – A preexisting infection such as periodontal disease or periodontitis can prevent the formation of blood clot or break it down.
- Chemical – Nicotine decreases the blood supply in mouth which prevents the formation of blood clot. Hence, smoking should be avoided.
- Physiological – Dense jawbone, hormones or improper blood supply can prevent the formation of the blood clot.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Socket?
Generally, the symptoms for a dry socket start developing after two to four days post a tooth extraction. The jawbone of the affected area may be visible in the socket and the tissue surrounding it may appear greyish due to poor healing. Other symptoms include:
- Throbbing but steady pain at the extraction site which is experienced after a few days of the tooth removal surgery.
- Missing blood clot at the site of extraction.
- Bone visible at the extraction site.
- Pain radiating to other parts such as ears, eyes on the same side of the face.
- Bad taste in mouth or a bad breath.
Who Is at a Risk for Dry Socket?
Everybody who has had a tooth extraction surgery will not necessarily develop a dry socket. However, certain factors can trigger its development. These include:
- Smoking and chewing tobacco.
- Poor oral hygiene.
- Teeth or gum infection in or around the extraction site.
- Past history of dry socket.
- Usage of oral contraceptives.
- Failure to follow precautions as prescribed by the dentist after tooth extraction surgery.
How is Dry Socket Diagnosed?
Timing of when your symptoms begin may be used to diagnose a dry socket. In case of normal healing, the discomfort should be reduced over time. Increase in discomfort or pain indicates delayed healing which may be due to a dry socket. If you experience extreme pain after two or three days post the tooth extraction surgery, consult your dentist immediately. Your dentist may suggest X-rays to rule out other dental issues including bone infection.
How is Dry Socket Treated?
You can take an Ibuprofen or Aspirin for reducing the pain or discomfort. However, if the pain is unbearable, it’s best to visit your dentist. He or she will first work on pain management and then focus on the healing process. For this, your dentist will:
- Flush the socket to remove any debris.
- Pack it with medicated dressings or special paste to promote healing.
- Prescribe pain medication and antibiotics.
- Give self-care instructions to follow at home.
How to Prevent Dry Socket?
Here are some steps you can take to prevent getting a dry socket:
- Quit smoking and chewing of tobacco before the surgery.
- Stop taking any medications which may interfere with the process of blood clotting after consulting your dentist.
- Follow the care instructions given by the dentist post your tooth extraction.
What are Some Home Remedies for Dry Socket?
Here are some home remedies and precautions for self-care to help reduce pain and effects of other symptoms:
- Use cold packs against your face for the first 24 hours post tooth extraction surgery for fifteen minutes at a stretch. This will help reduce the swelling. Afterwards, use warm wash cloths to manage pain.
- Clove oil helps relieve pain and prevents development or advancement of infections. Add clove oil to sterilized gauze and apply it directly to the affected area for 20 minutes at a stretch. Some people may experience some side effects of clove oil; hence consult your dentist before using it.
- Rinse your mouth with warm salt water gently multiple times.
- Brush your teeth with great care around the affected area.
- Do not use a straw as it can dislodge the dressing. Avoid consumption of carbonated beverages. Drink more water.
- Do not miss out on your pain medications.
- Do not smoke or consume tobacco.
It’s important to go for follow up checkups post the alveolar osteitis or dry socket treatment to ensure that no other complications such as bone infection develop. If you have any more queries related to tooth extraction or dry socket contact us at Coral Dental Care today.
Dr. Anu Isaac, DMD, runs a successful dental practice in Salem, MA. Dr. Isaac strives for quality on a daily basis and this commitment to quality is reflected in her constant pursuit of advanced training. Her firm belief that even experts need to stay updated about what’s new in the dental field, enables her to provide every patient with optimal oral care. As the founder of Coral Dental Care, she is dedicated to creating healthy, beautiful smiles for her patients and also to educating dental and non-dental community with her engaging articles on all things related to oral health, recent dental innovations, and latest treatment modalities.