What is Dry Socket: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment
After the extraction of a tooth, a blood clot should form in the extraction site to protect the bone. However, in a dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, that blood clot can dislodge prematurely or not form properly which leaves the bone exposed to the oral environment. This is a slower healing process. Typically, dry socket happens about the 4th or 5th day after surgery and can be extremely painful.
Luckily, only a small percentage of patients, about 2%-5%, develop dry socket after tooth extraction.
Risk Factors for Dry Socket
- Smoking or using Tobacco products including Vape with Nicotine
- Poor oral hygiene
- Patients taking birth control pills
- Diabetes that is not well controlled
- Straw usage for the first 4-5 days after surgery
- Forceful rinsing and spitting
- Not following after-care instructions
- Having Dry socket in the past
- Traumatic extractions, especially wisdom teeth in the lower jaw
- Previous infection such as periodontal disease or pericoronitis
- Patients older than 30 years of age
Symptoms of Dry Socket
- Severe throbbing pain that radiates through the jaw and to the ear 3-5 days after surgery on the same side of the surgery
- Foul odors and taste
- Exposure of bone in the extraction site; visible bone in the socket
Treatment for Dry Socket
- Pain medications such as Ibuprofen or prescription pain meds
- Placement of a dressing with medicament (done in the office)
- Flush out the socket to remove irritating debris
Prevention of Dry Socket
- Abstain from smoking, chewing tobacco, vaping after surgery
- Rinse GENTLY with warm salt water or prescription mouthwash
- Avoid sharp, hard foods as well as spicy foods
- Avoid carbonated beverages
- Good oral hygiene but avoid brushing the teeth in the immediate area of surgery for the first day after surgery
The good news is that a dry socket will heal over time. The average healing time is 7-10 days. This is the timeframe for new tissue to grow and heal over the exposed bone in the socket.
Written by Sarah Bong-Thakur, DDS, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
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