One of the biggest concerns after a tooth extraction is dry socket. A dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, happens when the blood that clots in the socket is gone which causes the jawbone to become inflamed. When there is nothing clotting the hole, it leaves the bone or nerves exposed causing serious discomfort and leaving the patient prone to infection or a prolonged healing process. This condition is rare for a regular tooth extraction but wisdom teeth dry socket is more common. If you develop a dry socket contact your dentist, as it can only be treated by a dentist or oral surgeon. You should treat dry socket immediately as it can prolong the extraction’s healing processes by 7-10 days. Now that you know the basis of this condition, keep reading to learn how to prevent dry socket and recognize dry socket symptoms.
How to Prevent Dry Socket
Patients have the power to dramatically decrease their chances of dry socket and it is important they are educated on preventative measures. Some situations are avoidable, and others are not, but regardless it’s good to be aware of what factors can increase your risks. There are several occurrences that increase your risk of dry socket including physiological factors like poor blood supply and hormones, and bacterial factors of preexisting conditions like periodontitis. Although dry socket is not common, you will be at an increased risk if you aren’t able to avoid the causes listed above or are having a surgical extraction like a wisdom teeth removal. If you have increased estrogen levels which can come from oral contraceptives then you have an increased risk of dry socket as well.
After the extraction, it is important that you know how to prevent dry socket from occurring by avoiding these common activities:
- Using tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco which contain nicotine that reduces blood supply
- Drinking with a straw, overly rinsing or aggressively spitting can dislodge a blood clot
- Eating hard foods or foods that can leave remnants behind which may dislodge a blood clot
Preventative measures, like the placement of the sutures and packing, can be taken by your oral surgeon to decrease the risk of dry socket. Talk to your surgeon prior to the surgery to discuss any concerns you have about how they prevent dry socket.
Oral hygiene also plays a huge role in dry socket prevention. You want the extraction area to be as clean as possible and it is important to gently rinse it with an antibiotic rinse that can be prescribed by your dentist or oral surgeon.
Dry Socket Symptoms
It’s usually easy to tell if you are having dry socket symptoms and they usually develop within the first week after a tooth extraction.
What Does Dry Socket Feel Like?
The biggest symptom that comes with a dry socket is intense pain. Typically, after an extraction, as with a wisdom tooth, pain decreases each day. If you are experiencing steady pain or an increase in pain after a few days of surgery, it’s possible you have dry socket. Not only will this condition feel like a consistent throbbing pain near the extraction area, but it could lead to pain in other areas of the face including the ears and eyes. As mentioned above, you should seek treatment by your dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible if you have dry socket symptoms. Until you receive medical attention, you can get temporary pain relief with over the counter pain medications or by applying an ice pack to the affected area.
How Do You Know if You Have Dry Socket?
Pain is not the only symptom associated with dry socket. Many patients also experience bad breath or a bad taste in their mouth due to bacteria and food particles stuck in the socket. During the healing process, keeping the extraction site clean is important in avoiding the accumulation of unwanted debris in the wound. More visible symptoms include the extraction site looking gray due to inadequate healing or jawbone exposure in the socket.
How Bad Does Dry Socket Hurt?
With a dry socket, the nerve endings and pain receptors in the bone is exposed to the outside world making it very painful. While pain tolerance varies from person to person, this condition is one that causes substantial pain.
How Do You Treat a Dry Socket?
If you are experiencing pain from a dry socket, it’s important to seek help from your dentist. Your dentist will be able to properly clean out the socket to remove any particles that may have gotten in there. Also, gauze with a medicated gel may be placed in the socket to also help with healing. This process will help to lessen pain and prevent a potential infection from starting. Taking over the counter pain relivers can also help with any pain you may be experiencing.
How Common is Dry Socket After Wisdom Teeth Removal?
While not very common, typically around 5% of people who get their wisdom teeth removed end up getting dry socket. Dry socket after a wisdom teeth removal comes from the newly exposed nerve endings and pain receptors that end up creating pain in your tooth and jaw.
Now that you know the symptoms and have some knowledge about dry socket prevention, you can be better prepared to take the steps necessary to avoid dry socket after your next tooth extraction.