Do you know what a dry socket is? Many people are not familiar with a dry socket, unless they have experienced one. A dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is a temporary condition that can occur after the extraction of a permanent tooth. In most cases, the body will produce a protective blood clot in the empty tooth socket to protect the bone and nerves. However, when this blood clot doesn’t form properly or is dislodged, then a dry socket occurs. Here is everything you need to know about a dry socket:
Do I have a dry socket?
Since a dry socket exposes the underlying bone and nerves, the primary sign of a dry socket is pain. Specifically, pain associated with a dry socket is described as a deep, throbbing pain on the side of the extraction. This pain can also migrate to the ears, eyes, temple, and neck. Bad breath and/or a foul taste are other signs you may have a dry socket. Finally, if you are able to look in the mirror and see exposed bone, then you likely have a dry socket.
How are dry sockets treated?
If you are experiencing signs of a dry socket, it is important to call your dentist right away. Your dentist will need to identify a dry socket and examine it for signs of infection. The socket will then be cleaned to remove food debris and prevent future infection. After being cleaned, your dentist may pack the socket with gauze soaked in a pain relieving gel. They will then provide you with information on when and how to change the dressing at home, as well as how to clean the socket.
It is important to seek treatment for a dry socket because leaving it untreated can cause various complications. The most common complication of a dry socket is delayed healing. However a dry socket can also cause an infection within the socket that can spread to the bone.
Can you prevent dry sockets?
Researchers are still looking into what causes dry sockets, however it is believed that bacteria and trauma can be possible causes. After your extraction, your dentist will provide you with postoperative instructions that can help you prevent a dry socket. These instructions generally recommend avoiding things that can lead to a dry socket such as rigorous activity, drinking from a straw, and brushing or flossing too soon. Postoperative instructions also contain information on what to eat and drink following an extraction, as well as how to manage your pain levels and keep the extraction site clean.
You may be at an increased risk of developing a dry socket if you have a past history of dry sockets, smoke or use tobacco products, are on oral contraceptives, or don’t follow your dentist’s postoperative instructions. Tobacco products delay healing and the act of inhaling while smoking can dislodge a blood clot and cause a dry socket. Since oral contraceptives contain high levels of estrogen, this can also disrupt the healing process and can increase the risk of developing a dry socket.
Dr. Victor Bustos graduated from Florida International University with an undergraduate degree in Chemistry and Biology and then continued on to obtain his DMD from the University of Florida College of Dentistry. He strives to always stay current on the newest techniques and continuously attends dental continuing education courses and workshops to further his knowledge and hone his skills. Dr Bustos’ greatest satisfaction comes from helping patients achieve their dental goals.