Having a tooth extraction is not really a great experience, but having a dry socket after that can be a nightmare. Dry socket symptoms is sometimes experienced after someone has had a permanent tooth extracted. The good news is that dry socket symptoms doesn’t last forever, it can be easily resolved with appropriate treatment. Although, with proper care after tooth extraction, dry socket can be avoided.
Well, am not here to waste much of your time. In this article, we are going to look at the definition of dry socket, the symptoms, those things that can increase your risk of developing dry socket and the treatment options to resolve dry socket.
What is dry socket?
Normally, after a tooth is extracted, a blood clot will usually develop to protect the empty sockets and promote healing. The blood clot provides a protective layer that protects the underlying bone and nerve endings as the site heals. In addition, the clots also create a needed foundation for the growth of new bone and the development of fresh soft tissue.
Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is a painful complication that occurs when a blood clot either fails to develop or dislodges before the wound has a chance to heal. When a dry socket occurs, the underlying bone and nerves are left exposed, leading to intense pain inside the socket, ear and along the side of the face. The pain from dry socket often starts on the third day after the extraction surgery and is often not fully treated by over the counter pain medications.
Well, dry socket can occur with any tooth, it’s most commonly found in the lower jaw, but can also occur in the maxilla (upper jaw). In most cases, patients do experience dry socket more often following the removal of their wisdom teeth. Once a dry socket develops, the healing process of the extraction site will be disrupted, and the resulting pain can be quite severe. (1).
Dry socket symptoms
Dry socket is not as common as you may think, only a small percentage of people (about 2 to 5%) experience dry socket symptoms after a tooth extraction. Like I said earlier, after a tooth is extracted, a blood clot forms in the socket to protect the bone and nerves underneath the socket. Discoloration of a healing site is normal. A normal blood clot will often appear dark, covering the extraction site as it heals.
If you look into the site where your tooth was pulled, and you see just a whitish bone underneath Instead of a dark blood clot, then you have a dry socket. Patients who developed dry socket, explained that the pain from dry socket typically starts about 3 days after their tooth was pulled. As more days passes, instead of dying down, the pain becomes more severe and can radiate to your ear, neck and different parts of your face. Another common symptom of dry socket is unpleasant taste in the mouth and persistent bad breath or foul odor coming from within the mouth.
However, it’s quite normal to experience certain amount of pain and discomfort after having a tooth pulled, worsening pain or severe pain is not normal at all. If the severe pain fails to improve some few days after tooth extraction, then you should see your dentist or oral surgeon. Moreover, visible bone within the socket plus total or partial loss of blood clot within the extraction site is a clear sign of dry socket.
Causes and factors responsible for dry socket
There are a number of factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing dry socket. The exact cause of dry socket is not fully understood and a number of mechanisms and factors have been postulated. It is believed that most people develop dry sockets due to excessive surgical trauma related to difficult extractions and bacterial contamination of the socket. However, here are some factors that can increase a person’s risk of dry socket:
- Smoking and tobacco use. Smoking and the use of any form of tobacco within the first 72 hours after the surgery is the most common cause of dry socket. The toxins gotten from these products, tend to disrupt the healing process and may even contaminate the wound site.
- Oral contraceptives. Taking oral contraceptives after the surgery may increase the chances of developing a dry socket. (2) These medications tend to increase estrogen levels in the body and may even disrupt the normal healing processes.
- A history of dry sockets. If you have a history of dry socket after having teeth pulled, then you are more likely to have dry socket again.
- Infection. Previous or current infections around an extracted tooth could increase the risk of dry socket.
- Poor oral hygiene.
How to treat dry socket
Patients are advised to return to their dentist office if they develop dry socket after having some teeth extracted. At the dentist’ office, the extraction site is thoroughly cleaned and sometimes a dressing is placed in the socket with a special paste designed to promote healing in the socket and eliminate pain. The dentist will remove any debris that might have accumulated in the hole, and then fill the socket with a medicated dressing or a special paste. Sometimes, there may be need for you to go back to your dentist’s office every few days for a dressing change until the socket starts to heal and your pain lessens.
If the pain is too severe, the dentist may prescribe some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to help ease the pain and discomforts. In addition, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics or recommend that you rinse with salt water or a mouthwash every day to prevent the socket from becoming infected. However, dry socket healing time can vary from person to person, it’s important to follow-up your dental appointments. Typically it takes between 7 and 10 days for dry socket to heal.