How Common Is Dry Socket, Symptoms & Risks

dry socket healing time
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Dry Socket, also known as Alveolar Osteitis, is the inflammation of the alveolar bone and usually occurs after you have your permanent tooth removed. Normally, after tooth extraction, a dark blood clot forms covering the area where the tooth was pulled from. The formation of blood clot is very important for the protection of the underlying bone and nerve endings in the empty tooth socket. On the other hand, the clot also provides the much needed foundation for the growth of new bone and for the development of soft tissue over the clot.

If the blood clot fails to form or gets lost in the socket you might have dry socket. However, it is normal to experience pain after tooth extraction, but people who develop dry socket typically complain of intense pain 3 to 4 days after the tooth extraction surgery. Without a blood clot, the underlying bone and nerve endings becomes exposed, resulting in intense pain and discomforts. As more days passes, the empty socket becomes inflamed and filled with food debris and bacteria. The pain often radiates to the ear, neck or other sides of the face.

How common is dry socket

Dry socket is quite rare, but you will be at greater risk of developing it if you have greater than usual trauma during the tooth extraction surgery. The percentage of people who develop dry socket is quite low, but most of these people have dry socket after wisdom teeth removal. According to the result gotten from a study, the percentage of those who develop dry socket is rarely about 3 to 5% of people who have a tooth extracted. People with diabetes, those who smoke, those with infection in the mouth, and women who take oral contraceptives are more likely to develop dry socket.

In addition, people who do not follow home-care instructions or care for the extraction site as instructed and women during menstruation have a small increase in risk for dry sockets. However, the pain from dry socket may keep you up at night. In most cases, over the counter pain medicines might not be enough to stop the pain.

Symptoms of dry socket

Maybe you just had one of your teeth extracted and you are wondering whether you developed a dry socket. Here are some of the common dry socket symptoms. Well, after a tooth extraction, discoloration of a healing site is normal. A person who did not have dry socket would see a dark blood clot covering the area where the tooth was pulled. A person with dry socket would not see these dark covering, instead he will be seeing a whitish bone underneath.

If you look into the site where your tooth was pulled, and you didn’t see the blood clot, then you have a dry socket. Pain from dry socket typically starts about three to four days after the tooth was pulled. Instead of dying down, the pain can become more severe and can radiate to your ear as more days passes. Well, here are some of the common symptoms of dry socket:

  • the socket appear empty without any blood covering, there will just be bone underneath.
  • an unpleasant smell and taste in your mouth.
  • persistent bad breath or a foul odor coming from your mouth.
  • pain radiates from the socket to your ear, eye, temple or neck and on different parts of your face.
  • severe pain and aching in the area of the socket within a few days after a tooth extraction.

Risk factors

After getting a tooth pulled, it is very important that you should understand the risks that could evolve during the recovery. There are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing dry socket. So, you’re more likely to get dry socket if any of the following applies to you:

  • Oral contraceptives. These medications tend to increase the level of estrogen in the body. Oral contraceptives pills and menstrual hormones have shown to have a small increase in the risk for dry sockets. High levels of estrogen may disrupt normal healing processes and increase the risk of dry socket.
  • History of dry socket. There is high chances of developing dry sockets if you have been having dry socket in the past. So, if you have had dry socket in the past, you’re more likely to develop it more often after tooth extraction.
  • Oral infection. There is high chances of having dry socket, if there is bacterial contamination of the socket during or after the extraction surgery. Also, tooth or gum infection can result in dry socket.
  • Improper after-care. After a tooth extraction, the dentist or oral surgeon is more likely to give you some home-care instructions that you should follow. If you practice poor oral hygiene and fail to follow these guidelines you may end up having a dry socket.
  • Smoking and tobacco use. Some chemicals in cigarettes or other forms of tobacco may impair healing and decreases new blood vessel formation. Sucking through a straw or cigarette, or aggressive rinsing and spitting can dislodge the clot early. Early dislodges of blood clot or poor healing will result in a stop or slow down the healing process. The extraction site might eventually become contaminated and infected.

Bottom line

After a tooth extraction, it’s very important that you should avoid smoking, aggressive rinsing, spitting or drink using a straw. Remember, if you have been using oral contraceptive (birth control pills) before surgery, you should discontinue the use, since it can increase your risk of developing dry socket. If by any chance that the socket becomes infected, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. At home, you can try rinsing your mouth daily with salt water or a special mouthwash as recommended by your dentist.

In most cases, dry sockets last for only 7-10 days. A small minority will last longer than a week. If the sockets seems not to be healing, your dentist may need to clean the tooth socket, removing any debris from the hole, and then fill the socket with a medicated piece of gauze or a special paste to promote healing. If the pain is too intense, you should take a pain medications as prescribed or follow your dentist’s instructions on applying ice or heat to your face right above the socket.

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