Dry socket often occur after the extraction of a permanent tooth. It happens occasionally after an impacted wisdom tooth is removed. You probably have a dry socket if you feel a sudden spike in pain and discomforts, from the third day after your tooth extraction surgery. Dry socket tends to develop when a blood clot either does not form after a tooth extraction or is lost. It can also develop when the blood clot dissolves or falls out too soon. When this happens, the underlying bone and nerves that were supposed to be protected by the clot becomes exposed, causing significant severe pain and delayed healing. The pain may even extend to your jaw, ear or other parts of your face and head.
Luckily, there is a number of dry socket treatment options and natural remedies that can relieve your pain as well as promote healing.
How dry socket is diagnosed
Most dry sockets happen within the first week after tooth extraction. At the dentist office, your dentist will have to examine your mouth to see if you still have a blood clot in your tooth socket and whether you have exposed bone. Partial or total loss of blood clot revealing an empty-looking socket or visible white bone is a common sign of dry socket. Severe pain at the tooth extraction site a few days after your procedure, delayed healing and discomforts that radiates to the jaw, ear, eye or temple are also signs of dry socket.
In addition, extreme bad breath and unpleasant taste in the mouth are common among patients with dry sockets. To diagnose a dry socket, you may need to have X-rays of your mouth and teeth taken to check for other condition like bone infection (osteomyelitis) or whether some fragments of root or bone are still remaining in the wound after surgery. (1)
Dry socket treatment
1. Medications. The healthcare provider is likely to prescribe some medicines for pain and infection. Pain and antibiotic medications are usually prescribed to help alleviate any swelling and pain associated with dry socket. Ensure to follow your dentist’s instructions when using these medications, take it exactly as directed. However, if the pain becomes unmanageable even while taking the pain medications that was prescribed initially, return to your dentist office immediately to try another dry socket treatment option. (2)
2. Flush out food debris and bacteria. This procedure involves flushing out the socket thoroughly to remove any food particles or other debris that may contribute to pain or possible infection. The dentist may carry out the cleaning using a syringe with warm water to flush out food debris and bacteria as the socket heals properly. There may also be need to irrigate the extraction site using oral antibacterial rinse such sterile saline and chlorhexidine.
3. Medicated dressings. This procedure involves packing or protecting the area with a sterile medicated dressing that may need to be changed several times during treatment. Packing the socket with medicated gel, paste or dressings will result in almost immediate pain relief and also promote proper healing of the surgical site. Once the socket is packed, ensure to follow the healthcare provider’s instructions to care for it. Depending on the severity of your dry socket, there may be need to change the medicated dressing after every few days.
4. Follow-up care. Once the dressing is removed, you will be instructed on how to continue keeping the area clean. The health provider is likely to give you a plastic syringe with a curved tip to use in flushing the socket at home to promote healing and eliminate debris. In the meantime, ensure to keep the area clean by following your dentist or oral surgeon’s instructions. There are some home remedies that can also help out.
Dry socket home remedies
1. Clove Oil
The clove oil has powerful antiseptic properties that fight bacteria, these properties can be harnessed to treat a dry socket. To try this remedy, rinse the socket first with warm salt water to clean it, then apply some clove oil dressing. Roll a piece of cotton or gauze into a ball and add a few drops of clove oil to the ball. The ball should be made in such a way that it will be small enough to fit in the socket without compacting but big enough to prevent food from entering it. The clove oil in the ball should provide an instant relief of your pain, it can be replaced every 24 hours.
2. Saltwater rinse
Most dentists recommend rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater within the first week after tooth extraction to prevent infection and reduce swelling. The warmness of the water can help to reduce swelling, while the salt can prevent infection. So, it is advisable to rinse gently with this solution within the first 48 hours after a tooth extraction to prevent dry sockets. You can prepare this solution by dissolving a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. For patients that already have dry sockets, you can rinse gently with the solution for at least twice daily to see results. (3)
3. Cold compress
If the pain is too intense, you can actually relieve the pain using a cold compress. You can prepare this remedy using an ice pack purchased from the store and a towel. Hold a cold pack wrapped in a thin towel on your jaw over the sore area for 10 minutes at a time to help reduce pain and swelling. You can repeat the cold compress for about 4 to 5 times every day for faster results.
4. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic that is very effective when used in treating dry sockets. Dip a cotton swab in water then place 1-2 drops of tea tree oil on it. Press this against the dry socket for 5 minutes, then rinse with warm water. You can try this remedy for 2 to 3 times per day to promote healing and also prevent infection.
5. Apply honey on dry socket
Naturally, honey has a strong antibacterial properties. According to a study, it was discovered that the application of honey on dry socket can sterilize dry sockets within 3 to 6 days. You can make a honey dressing in the same way that you would make a clove oil dressing. Roll a cotton into a small ball and dip it into some honey, you can place the soaked cotton ball in the socket.
Dry socket is a very painful complication from tooth extractions, but it is usually avoided by following all the necessary after-care instructions. Fortunately, there are available treatment options and home remedies for treating dry socket. If your socket is packed with gauze, ensure to follow the healthcare provider’s instructions to care for it and have it changed when due. If you are on medications, try to stay hydrated by drinking lots of clear liquids. Staying hydrated can help to prevent nausea that may be associated with some pain medications.
Remember, it is very important to rinse your mouth with warm saltwater or a prescribed mouthwash a few times every day. This will help to flush out food particles and harmful bacteria from the socket. You should also be cautious about what you eat or drink after having a medicated dressing placed on your socket. Avoid hard foods, carbonated beverages, smoking or using straw to drink until the socket heals to prevent dislodging the dressing. If the pain and swelling has radiated to your face, place a cold pack wrapped in a thin towel over the sore area for 10 minutes at a time to help reduce the pain and swelling.