What’s the Deal with Dry Socket?

dry socket When you have a painful, troublesome tooth, one of the frequently-suggested treatment options is extraction by an oral surgeon. Following the extraction, you might expect some discomfort, stinging or headaches. However, if the pain is just too much after a few days of recovery, it may be a sign of lingering dry socket.

You may have been warned numerous times about preventing dry socket, but knowing what it’s called isn’t necessarily the same as knowing when something’s wrong. Read on to learn how to recognize the symptoms of dry socket and how to treat it.

What Is Dry Socket?

According to a study conducted at the Al-Quds University Dental Teaching Center, dry socket only affected 3.2 percent of their study participants following an extraction.1 However, dry socket can prove quite painful and disruptive to the healing process, so it’s important patients are vigilant during recovery.

Following a tooth extraction, the remaining pit, or socket, where the tooth used to be is vulnerable to bacteria, temperature changes and further damage. Your body creates a blood clot inside the socket to protect the bone and nerves from bacterial infection and pain and to promote healing. Occasionally, though, the blood clot becomes dislodged, dissolves or never forms at all. This is the condition known as dry socket.

How Do I Know I Have Dry Socket?

Dry socket is most commonly characterized by intense pain that may affect your extraction site, jaw or ear. Depending on the extent of your extraction, though, it can be hard to determine if the pain you feel is a symptom of dry socket or is just a side effect of the surgery.

If you notice severe pain, take a look at the socket to determine if you still have a blood clot. You’ll know there is no clot if:

  • The socket looks dry
  • There is no dark red clot
  • You see glimpses of white or yellowish bone

If you notice your breath smells and you have an unpleasant taste in your mouth, you may have dry socket.

How Do I Get Rid of Dry Socket?

Dry socket requires a medical professional’s attention as soon as possible to prevent infection and further discomfort.

Despite the intense pain associated with dry socket, it’s actually quite treatable. Patients can use over-the-counter drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve pain and headaches. If these aren’t strong enough, your doctor may be able to prescribe a stronger pain reliever.

Your dentist will clean the socket and fill it with a medicated paste or dressing to act as a pseudo-clot and promote healing. The dressing will need to be changed every few days, so expect to return to your doctor’s office frequently. Dentists and surgeons may also prescribe antibiotics for extra assurance that your socket won’t become infected.

At home, be sure to rinse your mouth daily with salt water or a dentist-recommended mouthwash. Abide by your practitioner’s eat, drink and care rules. These may include:

  • No alcohol, caffeinated drinks or hot beverages. Water only.
  • Don’t drink with a straw.
  • Eat soft foods like yogurt and applesauce.
  • No chewing on the socket side of your mouth.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Rinse and brush your teeth very gently.
  • Avoid very hot or very cold foods or beverages.

Enjoy a Beautiful Smile with Greater Louisville Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates

Proper care after a tooth extraction can help ensure you’re recovered and back on your feet as soon as possible. The sooner you heal, the sooner you can actually enjoy your beautiful smile.

At Greater Louisville Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates, we specialize in dental implants and tooth extraction and realignment. Our friendly, experienced professionals will assess your smile, help you determine your dental goals and plan the most effective treatment options for your situation. If you’re ready to transform your smile, contact us online or call 502-459-8012 to schedule your consultation today!

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3089956/

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