A dry socket is when the blood clot gets dislodged prematurely or dissolves from the tooth socket. This leaves an open socket or hole that is exposed to food and debris. Symptoms of pain at the surgical site and even pain that radiates from the ear to the anterior jaw may occur 3-5 days after surgery. It is also not unusual for there to be a foul odor, or bad taste associated the pain. A dry socket is not an infection, but will require treatment. Dry sockets occur most often in the lower jaw and are usually associated with removal of the molar teeth. Stitches, which are usually placed after the removal of an impacted tooth, do not prevent dry sockets. Women taking birth control pills and smokers are more prone to dry sockets. The symptoms of a dry socket are easily treated with a medicated dressing. Call the office if you believe you are developing a dry socket so we can treat it early and keep you comfortable.
Treatment consists of gentle irrigation of the socket to ensure all food particles are flushed away. Then a medicated dressing is place in the socket. Relief of symptoms usually occurs within the hour. The procedure is repeated in 5 to 7 days. Usually two to three treatment is all that is required. We just want you to be as comfortable as possible during your healing phase.
Dry Socket FAQs
What is a dry socket?
A dry socket, medically known as alveolar osteitis, is a painful dental condition that can happen after you’ve had a permanent adult tooth extracted.
How does a dry socket develop?
The blood clot that forms after a tooth extraction becomes dislodged or dissolved before the wound heals, exposing nerves and underlying bone and resulting in pain and possibly bad breath.
What are the symptoms of a dry socket?
- An empty socket with no blood clot
- Severe pain one to three days after the tooth extraction
- Bad taste in your mouth
- Pain from the socket to the ear, temple, eye, or neck
- Slight fever
What should I do if I suspect I have a dry socket?
Self-care for dry sockets includes:
- Rinse and clean the dry socket with saltwater.
- To ease pain, place medicated gauze in the socket.
- Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain medications.
- Apply ice to reduce discomfort.
- If these remedies do not help, contact your oral surgeon.
What is the treatment for a dry socket?
Treating a dry socket involves flushing it out to remove food particles and other materials and filling it with a medicated paste or dressing. Go to your oral surgeon periodically to change your dressing.
Can a dry socket heal on its own?
In most cases, a dry socket will heal independently. However, most people with this condition experience moderate to severe pain, and seeing your dentist for swift treatment can help ease discomfort sooner.
How long does it take for a dry socket to heal?
With appropriate care, a dry socket typically heals in a week to 10 days. During that time, new tissue will grow and cover the exposed socket. Regular brushing and flossing during this time helps keep your mouth healthy and reduces the risk of infection. People who have had dry sockets before are likely to get them again.
How can I prevent a dry socket from occurring after oral surgery?
- Use the oral rinse given to you after the procedure.
- If you smoke, quit for at least three days after your surgery.
- Do not drink through a straw for at least three days. The pressure inside your mouth can dislodge the blood clot.
- Don’t touch the socket other than to change the gauze.
- Don’t eat foods that can get stuck in the extraction site, like popcorn, pasta, and peanuts.
- Eat soft foods or clear soups.
Are some people more susceptible to developing a dry socket than others?
Yes, they include:
- Smokers or tobacco users
- People who take oral contraceptives
- People who have experienced dry sockets after previous oral surgeries
Can smoking increase the risk of developing a dry socket?
Tobacco smokers have over three times the risk of having a post-tooth extraction dry socket.
What should I eat after developing a dry socket?
Pudding, yogurt, Jell-O, and applesauce are excellent recovery foods because they don’t require any chewing. Stick to these post-extraction staples for the first 24 hours after your surgery before moving on to soft foods you need to chew.
How soon can I return to normal activities after developing a dry socket?
You can expect the dry socket healing process to last a week to 10 days as new tissue covers the exposed bone and heals the wound. If you have a thin bone or periodontal disease, healing may take longer.
Can a dry socket lead to other complications?
Though painful, dry socket rarely results in infection or severe complications. However, potential issues may include delayed healing, infection in the socket, or progression to a chronic bone infection known as osteomyelitis.
What should I do if I have persistent pain after my dry socket has healed?
Contact your oral surgeon immediately.
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