What is a Dry Socket?
Dry socket is a painful condition that can develop after a tooth extraction surgery. This condition can be very painful and uncomfortable during the immediate healing phase and may require treatment. The medical term for dry socket is alveolar osteitis which literally means inflammation of the bone that supports the tooth. When a tooth is removed, a blood clot typically forms at the base of the hole that is left behind. This clot acts as a “band-aid” while the jaw bone regenerates. If the blood clot becomes dislodged, the bone underneath is exposed to the rest of the mouth and the area can become irritated and inflamed.
Dry socket is diagnosed from the patient’s history and is more common in the lower jaw. This condition usually develops during the first week after a tooth is extracted and is described as an aching and throbbing type of pain. Sometimes there is a foul odor and bad taste in the mouth as well. Worsening pain during the first week after surgery may be a sign of this condition, and the development of a dry socket beyond one week after surgery is highly unlikely.
To prevent disturbing the blood clot after an extraction, I recommend the following for at least one week after a tooth removal:
Do not use a straw
Do not smoke or vape
Do not spit forcefully
In addition, here are some additional recommendations for self care:
Take pain medications such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol. If pain is not controlled, call your dentist or oral surgeon.
Rinse with warm saltwater several times a day
Gently flush out the tooth socket of any food debris
The incidence of dry socket is approximately 1 out of 20 patients, or about 5%. If a dry socket is suspected and pain cannot be controlled with over the counter pain medications, I typically have the patient stop by the office to place a medicated dressing into the tooth socket itself. This dressing is simply a cotton strip soaked in a compound derived from cloves. While the taste is not great, most patients find immediate relief. This temporary dressing is adequate to get patients through their dry socket and once removed several days after placement, allows the body to continue with the normal healing process. While a dry socket is painful and unpleasant, there are no long term side effects from a dry socket.
To your health and prosperity,
on Feb 28th, 2021
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