Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is a painful dental condition that develops after removal of wisdom teeth. It occurs when the blood clot is not formed at the removal site or when the formed blood clot is dislodged. It causes intense pain within 3 – 4 days of teeth extraction.
Dry socket can be very uncomfortable. However, it is easily treatable. A dentist or an oral surgeon can treat this condition to reduce the pain and promote healing.
Causes of Dry Socket
Usually, a blood clot is formed at the site of a tooth removal. This blood clot acts as a protective layer over the jaw bone and nerves in the empty tooth socket. The blood clot provides a support for the growth of new bone and development of tissue over the clot.
Dry socket develops when the clot is dislodged, dissolved or not formed properly. With this absence of blood clot, the removed tooth area cannot be filled with a new tissue. The nerves and bone are then exposed to foods, fluids and air. This causes severe pain in the socket and also along the nerves that radiate through the facial region.
There are several other causes too that play an important role in causing dry socket. They include:
- Tissue and bone trauma while extracting the tooth
- Bacterial contamination in the socket
- Bone and root fragments may sometimes remain in the area after surgery
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Improper oral hygiene
- Oral contraceptives
Symptoms of Dry Socket
The signs and symptoms of dry socket include:
- Intense pain at the site of tooth extraction
- Empty looking socket as there will be loss of blood clot
- Visible bone
- Radiating pain from the socket to the eye, ear, temple, neck and side of the face
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Foul odor or bad breath from the mouth
- Swollen lymph nodes around neck and jaw
Treatment for Dry Socket
Treating dry socket is mainly aimed at reducing the symptoms, mainly the pain. The treatment options include:
Rinsing the dry socket – Your dentist rinses the dry socket to remove the food particles or any other substances that has formed in the socket and which may contribute to infection or pain.
Medicated dressings – The socket is packed with medicated dressings and this will provide quicker pain relief. However, in this treatment the dressings need to be changed often. The severity of pain and other signs determine the need for changing the medicated dressings.
Pain relievers – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and aspirin help to ease the pain and discomfort. When these medications are not effective, the dentist may prescribe stronger pain medications.
Self care – Your dentist may recommend you to rinse the socket with salt water or prescribed mouthwash. This promotes quick healing and eliminates debris.
With the treatment, you will begin to find some relief in a few hours. Other symptoms will continue to improve and resolve within 5 – 10 days.
Care / Prevention of Dry Socket
Quit smoking – Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for dry socket. Also avoid cigars, cigarettes and any other tobacco products for a day or more before the surgery.
Be aware of contraceptives – When you are on birth control pills, ask your dentist to perform the surgery when you are having the lowest estrogen dose. This is because the hormone can affect the blood clot formation. Ask your dentist to check about other medications also that can interfere with blood clotting.
Activity – Take the day after the surgery off. Avoid performing any sort of vigorous activities and playing sports that may result is dislodging the clot.
Fluids – Drink lots and lots of water after getting your tooth extracted. Avoid alcoholic, carbonated and caffeinated beverages in the first 24 hours. Avoid drinking through a straw or spitting for first few days.
Food – Eat only soft foods and ones which you can bite and chew easily. Avoid chewy, hard, spicy or hot foods which may get stuck in the wound area.
Clean your mouth – Do not rinse your mouth, brush your teeth or use a mouthwash during the first 24 hours. Rinse your mouth with salt water solution after every meal and even after every two hours. You can resume brushing after 24 hours, however brush gently near the surgical area.