Dry Socket Definition
The removal of a tooth leads to the formation of an empty or hollow space in the gums known as a socket. Usually, after the extraction of a tooth, a blood clot forms to protect the nerves and bone underneath. The blood clot also serves as a foundation for the development of soft tissues over the clot and growth of a new bone.
However, in some cases, there may be a partial or complete loss of the blood clot. It’s dissolving, dislodging or failure to develop exposes the bones and nerves resulting in extreme pain. Food debris may fill the socket and cause inflammation which increases the pain. Moreover, due to the exposure of the nerves, the pain does not limit itself to the socket only but also radiates to the side of the face. This condition of the absence or loss of the blood clot that causes pain is known as a Dry socket or Alveolar osteitis and is most common in case of removal of the wisdom tooth or third molars.
Dry Socket Symptoms
- Empty looking socket due to the loss of the blood clot during extraction
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Bone is visible in the socket
- Experience of severe pain within a few days of the removal
- Mouth has a foul odor or bad breath
- Pain radiates from the socket to the ear, neck, temple, eye on the same side as the tooth extraction
Dry Socket Causes
- Bacterial infections: Contamination by bacteria may cause dry socket as it may enter the system through food, liquid, etc. The bacteria then act upon the socket and prevent healing.
- Tobacco products: The chemical present in tobacco products such as cigarettes can contaminate the wound and slow down the healing process. Inhaling while smoking can dislocate the clot and disrupt healing.
- Neglecting the injury: The dentist usually prescribes ways to look after the wound that helps to keep it clear of any infections and aids in the speedy recovery. However, if individuals are unable to follow these measures and neglect the wound, it may result in dry socket.
- Medicines: Intake of certain types of medication can interfere with the healing process. Oral contraceptive pills contain high levels of estrogen is capable of disturbing the process of recovery.
Dry Socket Risks
People who have the following habits have a higher chance:
- Chewing tobacco
- Poor oral hygiene
- Failure to follow instructions for care after a tooth extraction
- Infections around the extraction site, in the gum or teeth
- Experience of dry socket in the past
- Using a drinking straw after a tooth extraction
- Extraction of the wisdom tooth
- Using birth control pills
- Feeling of higher intensity of trauma in comparison to usual tooth extraction surgery
- Excessive rinsing and spitting
Dry Socket Complications
The following complications may arise:
- Infection in the socket
- Healing process is slow
- Infection may spread to the bones-chronic bone infection or osteomyelitis
Dry Socket Prevention
Before the surgery:
- Choose a dentist having experience in performing tooth extraction surgeries
- Inform the dentist about any medication that you might be taking because some medicines can affect the healing process
- Try to reduce or give up smoking and alcohol consumption before the surgery to help in speedy recovery
- Choose a date for the operation when the estrogen is at its lowest in the body because the hormone is capable of disrupting the recovery process
After the surgery:
- Individuals who have a weak immune system must take oral antibiotics to cope with possible bacterial infections
- Application of antiseptic ointments on the wound
- Medicated dressing of the injury after the surgery
- Use of antibacterial gels and mouthwashes
- Maintain oral hygiene
- Apply hot or cold packs on the jaw
- Drink large amounts of clear liquids
- Eat soft foods only
- Take care not to affect the wound while eating
- Avoid sports and other activities that could dislocate the blood clot
Dry Socket Diagnosis
- Dental examination
- X-rays of the mouth and teeth
Dry Socket Treatment
- Diet: It is vital that the individual consumes soft or semi-soft food till the wound heals completely. Presence of any hard particle may cause further damage. Moreover, clear liquids must be taken in large quantities while avoiding the consumption of alcoholic, caffeinated and carbonated beverages that make it difficult for the wound to heal.
- Cleaning the socket: Gurgling can help in removal of the food debris that may have accumulated in the socket. This prevents the buildup of bacteria and the possibility of an infection. Use of a solution of warm water and salt is useful as it can kill the germs that may be present in the socket.
- Medication: Aspirin and ibuprofen are some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can be taken to reduce the pain and discomfort that an individual may experience. If these medicines do not relieve the pain, the doctor may suggest a stronger dose to deprive the affected area of its consciousness.
- Rest: Any surgery requires the person to rest and allow the wound to heal. After an extraction also, the person must relax and allow the body to recover. Any activity that could strain the affected area must be avoided.
When to visit a doctor?
It is advisable to visit a doctor in case the extreme pain is experienced after a tooth extraction surgery. The individual must inform the doctor about all the symptoms that he/she is experiencing as well as about any medical condition that they may be undergoing. Medicines can also affect a state of the dry socket. Thus the consumption of any medication must also be brought to the notice of the doctor. Lastly, it is essential for the individual to ask questions and clear his/her doubt regarding the condition that they are undergoing.