During the normal healing process after having a tooth extracted, the empty socket in the gums should develop a blood clot. This blood clot helps the hole in your gums heal properly while also protecting the jawbone and nerves that would otherwise be exposed.
When a blood clot fails to form or does not form properly in the socket, it creates a dry socket which leaves the nerves and jawbone exposed and at risk of developing an infection and other complications.
Dry Socket Diagnosis
Although x-rays might be needed in some cases, dry socket can usually be diagnosed based on our patient having recently had a tooth extracted, the description of symptoms, and a quick examination of the socket.
- Throbbing pain that might radiate from the extraction site into your neck, ear, eye, or temple
- Pain is usually on the same side of your face as the tooth extraction site.
- Pain can occur at any time but typically occurs about three days after the extraction.
- Bad breath
- Foul taste that lingers in the mouth
- Visibly exposed jawbone at the extraction site
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you might have a dry socket and you should see a dentist as soon as possible. Although some discomfort is normal after a tooth extraction, more severe pain can indicate a problem. We strongly recommend scheduling a follow-up examination whether you can see your exposed jawbone or not.
Dry Socket Treatment
Treatment for dry socket is fairly straightforward. Dr. Harding first irrigates the socket to make sure it’s clean and free from food particles and debris. He might then apply a medicated ointment or gel and a dressing.
If you receive a medicated dressing, our dentist will also be sure to provide you with instructions for removing the dressing, flushing the socket, and continuing to irrigate the socket with warm water, salt water, or a medicated rinse.
Pain can be treated with over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, as prescription pain medication is not usually necessary.
How Common Is Dry Socket?
Dry socket is the most common complication associated with tooth extractions. However, only about 2% of tooth extraction patients experience dry socket. It occurs more frequently following the extraction of the lower third molars (bottom wisdom teeth).
What Causes Dry Socket?
Dry socket can occur either when a blood clot fails to form or when a properly formed blood clot becomes dislodged from the socket.
The exact reason why blood clots sometimes fail to form is not clearly understood. However, it is thought to be related to the presence of bacteria in the socket and/or trauma that might occur due to eating solid foods too soon or accidentally poking the socket with your toothbrush.
Am I at Risk of Getting Dry Socket?
Certain factors do put people at a higher risk of developing a dry socket following a tooth extraction. These factors include:
- Having had a dry socket in the past means you’re more likely to develop one after another tooth extraction.
- Smoking or using any form of tobacco products. These products not only have the potential to contaminate the wound, but they also slow the healing process. Additionally, the suction formed when smoking can dislodge a blood clot leading to dry socket.
- Using oral contraceptives that contain high levels of estrogen. These hormones can disrupt the healing process.
If you fall into any of these categories, it’s important to let our dentist know before your tooth extraction appointment. Dr. Harding can then be sure you are thoroughly aware of the steps you can take to encourage proper healing, in addition to ensuring you are aware of the symptoms of dry socket so you will know what signs to look out for.
In addition, neglecting to take proper care of your wound after having a tooth extracted can lead to food and other debris getting lodged in the socket, bacterial growth, and infection. Subsequently, you will be at an elevated risk of developing an improperly formed blood clot or dislodging your blood clot.
How to Prevent Dry Socket
The most important thing you can do to prevent dry socket is to carefully follow our dentist’s aftercare instructions when you have a tooth extracted.
Tooth Extractions and Tooth Replacements With Dentistry of West Bend
In dentistry, our top priority is always to do everything we can to preserve your natural teeth. Sometimes, however, the damage or decay to a tooth is too extensive for saving a tooth to be a viable option. When this is the case, tooth extraction is a necessary treatment.
Tooth extraction always occurs with plenty of local anesthetics to ensure our patients are comfortable and do not experience any pain. Depending on the condition of your tooth, its root system, and your personal comfort level, Dr. Harding can recommend having your tooth extracted with or without sedation.
Once your tooth has been removed and the socket has healed properly, Dr. Harding can talk with you about your options for replacing the tooth using a dental implant, dental bridge, or another tooth replacement option. Replacing teeth not only restores your chewing and speaking function but also preserves the health of your jaw.