Dry Socket: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
After a tooth extraction, it can take about two weeks for your mouth to fully heal. While most people will find their healing process is slow and steady, there are complications that you should be aware of. One complication that can happen after a tooth extraction is dry socket.
What is dry socket?
Dry socket, technically known as alveolar osteitis, is a condition that can develop after a tooth extraction. After a tooth is removed, your body forms a blood clot in the empty socket to protect the underlying bone and nerve endings.
Dry socket happens when a blood clot either doesn’t form, is dislodged or dissolves before the wound is healed, leaving the socket exposed. This exposed bone can be extremely sensitive and susceptible to infection, leading to a lot of pain for the patient.
How do you know if you have dry socket?
After a tooth extraction, a healthy wound will have a noticeable blood cot at the bottom of the socket. If the blood clot is missing, or if you can see white at the bottom of the socket, you could be at risk of developing dry socket.
While the white colour you see could indicate exposed bone, there are other coloured signs you should look out for. A pink or red fleshy looking wound is a sign your tooth socket is covered and healing nicely. Black, green or yellow discolouration could mean you have an infection that needs immediate attention.
Dry socket usually happens during the first three days after a tooth extraction and it’s important that you keep a look out for signs of dry socket or an infection.
What contributes to dry socket after an extraction?
There are a few things that can contribute to developing dry socket after an extraction:
Improper tooth care: After extraction surgery, your dentist will give you some instructions to help with the healing process. Make sure you follow these instructions closely as they will help your body form and maintain a blood clot.
Poor oral hygiene: Bad oral hygiene, gum disease or infections in the mouth can increase the risk of dry socket.
Using a straw or spitting: Avoid any actions that include suction or forceful spitting until after your mouth has healed.
Smoking: Cigarettes and tobacco restrict blood flow around the body and can slow down the healing process. Inhaling a cigarette or vape is enough suction to dislodge a newly formed blood clot.
History of dry socket: If you have had a tooth extracted before and suffered from dry socket, you may be at a higher risk of developing dry socket again.
Some medical conditions: Some medical conditions such as diabetes or autoimmune disease have a higher chance of developing dry socket.
Oral contraception: Birth control can disrupt the healing process.
What are the symptoms of dry socket?
Recognising the symptoms of dry socket is important so that you can see your dentist straight away. Common signs that you are developing dry socket include:
- Severe or throbbing pain at the extraction site
- A bad odour or foul taste in the mouth
- Seeing bone rather than a blood clot in the socket
- Delayed healing or very little healing 3-4 days in
Can I prevent dry socket from happening?
While you can’t prevent dry socket, you can minimise the risk of developing it. After surgery, follow your dentists post-extraction instructions to ensure the blood clot doesn’t dissolve or fall out. These instructions will usually include avoiding washing your mouth out for the first few days after surgery and only eating soft or liquid foods for the first few days.
What should I do if I have dry socket?
If you think you’re developing dry socket, phone your dentist right away. Your dentist will be able to clean the socket and remove any debris from the area. They can also apply a medicated dressing or paste to promote healing and pain relief. They may also be able to prescribe medications or recommend over-the-counter medicine for pain relief.
If you have questions or concerns about the healing process, book an appointment with Gentle Dental. Our dentists will be able to answer your questions and alleviate any concerns you have before your tooth extraction procedure. Book now.