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Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is a painful complication that can develop after tooth extraction.
After tooth removal, a blood clot typically develops in the resulting hole in the bone and gums (socket). This blood clot acts as a protective covering over the socket while it heals. It also serves as a foundation for new soft tissue and bone growth.
The underlying bone and nerves are exposed if a blood clot doesn’t form or it dissolves or dislodges too early. This condition is called dry socket.
The cause of dry socket is often unclear. But several risk factors increase the risk of developing dry socket after a tooth extraction. They include:
The most common complication associated with tooth extraction is dry socket. Around 2 to 5% of people experience dry sockets following wisdom tooth extraction.
According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, the highest risk for dry socket is within the first 4 days after surgery.
Dry socket can cause several symptoms that tend to develop 1 to 3 days after surgery, including:
After tooth extractions, you will schedule post-surgery visits with your dentist or oral surgeon.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible if you have:
Some people with dry socket may only experience minor pain. But dry socket pain is often very severe.
Untreated dry socket can also:
A dentist can often diagnose dry socket by examining the affected area and assessing your symptoms. They may take X-rays to ensure no tooth fragments were left in the gums. They will also check for bone infections.
Home remedies can help reduce pain associated with dry socket and help it heal quicker. But dry socket always requires treatment from a dentist or oral surgeon.
Home remedies include:
Once dry socket develops, a dental healthcare professional will often:
Most people will need to have the dressing covering their dry socket changed or removed by a dentist.
With proper treatment and good at-home care, a socket often resolves within 7 to 10 days. Most people experience pain relief once treatment starts.
Because the cause is often unknown, there may be nothing you can do to prevent dry socket from developing. But you can do a few things to reduce the risk of developing dry socket.
You might need to take oral antibiotics before surgery, especially if you have immune conditions. You may also need to use antibacterial gels or mouthwashes immediately before surgery.
After surgery, most people should:
Practicing good oral hygiene helps keep the socket clean and prevents dry socket. It can also promote healing.
After surgery, brush the teeth gently and avoid brushing the extraction site for 24 hours.
Once 24 hours have passed, gently rinse the mouth with a warm salt water rinse several times daily for a week. Make a DIY salt water rinse by mixing ½ teaspoon of table salt into an 8-ounce glass of water. A doctor may also suggest rinsing the mouth with antibacterial mouth rinses.
Smoking or using tobacco products increases the risk of dry socket significantly and can interfere with the healing process.
Do not smoke or use tobacco products for 3 days or more after tooth removal surgery. Quitting smoking or tobacco use before surgery also reduces the risk of dry socket.
Things that put pressure on the healing socket can disturb a protective blood clot. Avoid drinking through a straw and other sucking motions for at least 1 week after surgery. Avoid poking and probing the healing socket with your finger or a toothpick.
Only eat soft foods for at least a week after surgery. Eating crunchy, hard foods and chewing on the same side as where the extraction was done can cause debris to enter the socket and dislodge the blood clot.
Also avoid drinks that are:
Dry socket occurs when a blood clot doesn’t form properly or dissolves or dislodges from the socket too early. This leaves the bone and nerves exposed. It usually develops after a tooth extraction or removal and can delay healing.
There are several ways to prevent dry socket and reduce its symptoms at home. Dry socket typically requires medical attention and care from a dentist or oral surgeon.
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