Dry Socket

Dry Socket Summary
Dry socket is a painful condition that sometimes occurs after a tooth has been pulled. Dry socket can occur if the blood clot protecting the bone and nerves in the hole in the bone where the tooth was pulled becomes dislodged after extraction. In addition to pain, symptoms include bad breath and a bad taste in your mouth. People who smoke, have poor oral hygiene, and those who use birth control pills have a greater likelihood of developing dry socket. This condition may be treated with aspirin, ibuprofen, a nerve block, or medication prescribed by your dentist.
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What is a dry socket?

A dry socket is a fairly common complication of tooth extraction characterized by severe pain. It occurs when the tooth socket loses the blood clot that forms after a tooth is extracted and the bone inside the socket becomes exposed. It is one of the most painful dental problems one can experience. A dry socket is also referred to as alveolar osteitis.

What causes a dry socket?

The blood clot that forms after tooth extraction is essential for optimal healing of the underlying tissue. Destruction or loss of the blood clot prevents normal healing and causes alveolar osteitis. There are a variety of reasons why the initial blood clot could be lost or destroyed prematurely. The body reacts to local infection and inflammation, trauma, bacteria, and estrogen to destroy the blood clot, leaving an exposed socket. So it is important to minimize these risk factors as much as possible.

How common is a dry socket?

A dry socket will occur in only a small percentage of tooth extractions, but it becomes much more common in the extraction of lower (mandibular) wisdom teeth.

What are signs and symptoms of dry socket?

A patient may first notice signs of a dry socket 3 to 4 days after extraction of the tooth by feeling moderate-to-severe pain that could last anywhere from 10 to 40 days. The exposed bone of a dry socket is very sensitive and leads to an intense dull aching pain that throbs and radiates around the affected side of the jaw often to the patient's ear. Frequently, the patient affected by a dry socket will also complain of a bad odor or bad taste in their mouth.

What is the treatment for dry socket?

Treatment for dry socket is intended to make a patient more comfortable by reducing dental pain but it generally won't accelerate the healing process. It is very important to diagnose the dry socket correctly and not confuse it with something equally as painful like a root canal problem. It is diagnosed by visualizing or probing the exposed bone of an extraction site and noting the patient's symptoms of pain and foul odor or taste.

The dry socket is treated by flushing the extraction site with warm salt water solution and packing the socket with gauze or a gelatin sponge coated with an antiseptic dressing. Clove oil when mixed into a paste has been used effectively in treating dry sockets due to its soothing properties. The dressing is replaced every 1 to 3 days, depending on the severity of pain, until the pain goes away. As soon as the pain is gone, the socket must be allowed to heal on its own.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/4/2014

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