If you're one of the millions of Americans who have had a tooth extraction, you might have heard that something called a “dry socket” occasionally occurs after this procedure. But what is a dry socket, and why do some people get it? What are its symptoms, and how is it treated?
What is a dry socket?
A dry socket, or “alveolar osteitis,” is a condition that can occur after tooth extraction. It’s caused by failure of proper formation of a blood clot during the healing process or from loss of a blood clot from an extraction socket days after the extraction.
Because the tooth socket is now empty after the extraction, with bone from the tooth socket exposed into the mouth, the area is susceptible to inflammation and infection if not protected by a blood clot. This may cause pain, as well as a prolonged healing time.
Why do some people get dry sockets and others don't?
There are a few factors that can increase your chances of getting dry sockets. For example, smoking or drinking through straws in the days immediately following a tooth extraction can dislodge the delicate blood clot that has formed in the socket. There is some evidence to suggest that the use of birth control pills can predispose individuals to dry socket as well. While gently rinsing your mouth with salt water is encouraged in the weeks after extraction to keep the healing socket clean, rinsing too vigorously can dislodge the blood clot, increasing the likelihood of developing a dry socket. Infection, extraction difficulty, and history of radiation to the jaws may also increase one’s risk of developing a dry socket.
What are the symptoms of a dry socket?
After tooth extraction, it's normal to experience soreness and swelling. The most common symptoms of a dry socket, though, are:
- Radiating pain. Aching or throbbing, usually from one area of your mouth that travels towards other parts of your head (like towards adjacent teeth or up towards your ear), that starts a few days following extraction.
- Fetor oris. An foul odor emanating from the extraction socket.
- Bad taste. An unpleasant taste in your mouth.
How is a dry socket treated?
If you experience a dry socket, depending upon the severity, your oral surgeon may place a medicated dressing into the socket, which should remain in place for at least 24 hours but up to 1 week. If, after such packing is placed, your pain doesn’t subside within 24 hours, then call your oral surgeon.
How can I prevent a dry socket?
- Only consume soft, cold foods or liquids (without use of a straw) on the night of your extraction
- Avoid smoking for 1 week before and 1 week after extraction
- Use a soft toothbrush to clean your mouth, avoiding the area of extraction in the days immediately following extraction
- Rinse with warm salt water gently after meals in the days following extraction
Tooth Extractions at Manchester Oral Surgery
Dr. Abel routinely draws blood from his patients at the time of teeth extractions in order to fabricate Leukocyte-Platelet Rich Fibrin (L-PRF). After spinning your blood sample in a centrifuge, the proteins isolated from your blood are applied directly to the sockets after teeth extractions. The benefits of L-PRF include a reduced risk of developing dry socket.
Tooth extractions most often go routinely, especially when performed by our highly trained team at Manchester Oral Surgery.