A dry socket is the most common complication follow tooth extractions, such as the removal of impacted wisdom teeth. A dry socket usually occurs about three days following a tooth extraction.
Signs and Symptoms Can Include:
- Severe steady pain within a few days of a tooth extraction
- Partial or total loss of the blood clot at the tooth extraction site
- Pain radiating from the socket to your ear or eye
- Bad breath or a foul odour coming from your mouth
- Unpleasant taste in your mouth
Causes of a Dry Socket:
Following a tooth extraction, normally a blood clot forms at the site. This clot serves as a protective layer over the underlying bone and nerve endings. The clot provides the foundation for the growth of new tissue and bone. In some cases, if the clot doesn’t form properly or is physically dislodged before complete healing. With the clot gone, bone and nerves in the socket are exposed to air, food and fluids. This can cause intense pain.
Factors that can increase your risk of developing a dry socket can include:
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Taking oral contraceptives
- Not following post-extraction guidelines
- Previous cases of a dry socket
Complications of a Dry Socket:
- Time of work or school
- Delayed healing
When to See a Dentist:
Initially when you have had a tooth extracted, any discomfort you experience generally gets better with each day. However if you develop new or worsening pain in the days after your tooth extraction we advise contacting your Dentist or Oral Surgeon so that you can get properly evaluated and treated.
What to Expect from Your Dentist or Oral Surgeon:
Your Dentist or Oral Surgeon is likely to ask you questions about your symptoms. He or She may ask:
- When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything seems to worsen your symptoms?
Diagnosis of a Dry Socket:
Severe pain following a tooth extraction is often enough for your Dentist or Oral Surgeon to suspect a dry socket. Your Dentist or Oral Surgeon will also ask about your other symptoms and examine your mouth. They will check to see if you have a blood clot in your tooth socket and whether you have exposed bone.
Treatment for a Dry Socket:
Treatment of a dry socket is mainly geared towards reducing the symptoms, particularly pain. Treatment can include:
- Medicated dressing and pastes
- Flushing out the socket
- Pain medication
Once treatment is started, you may begin to feel some relief in just a matter of minutes. Pain and other symptoms should continue to improve over the next few days. Complete healing typically goes smoothly and generally takes about 10 to 14 days.
Prevention of a Dry Socket:
Steps that both you and your Dentist or Oral Surgeon take may go a long way in helping prevent a dry socket or help reduce your risk. Some research suggests that treatment with certain medications such as antibiotics before and after oral surgery may reduce the risk of developing a dry socket.
Following Tooth Extraction Surgery:
- Avoid spitting for the first few days
- Don’t drink with a straw for the first few days
- Take the advised medication as recommended
- Bite on gauze as prescribed and change it only as prescribed
- Don’t drink carbonated drinks for two to three days after your tooth extraction
- Gently brush teeth adjacent to the extraction site
- Don’t rinse your mouth vigorously or excessively especially in the first 24 hours
- Resist the urge to touch the extraction site with your tongue or fingers
- Eat soft foods
Dr Paulo Pinho at Widsom Teeth Professionals Sydney has extensive training in oral surgery, including the removal of wisdom teeth. Dr Pinho also has developed a great protocol to prevent and treat dry sockets. To learn more, call Dr Paulo Pinho at Wisdom Teeth Professionals in Sydney on 1300 217 858.
The information contained in this article is intended to give you general information and it is not intended to replace professional medical advice.