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Dry Socket

Illustration of an impacted wisdom toothYou may have heard the term "dry socket" used by a dentist or other dental specialist in the past. Dry socket may generally be a more common dental complication than others, but not all patients understand what it is or why it is so commonly mentioned.

Dry socket, or alveolar osteitis, is a painful dental complication that typically occurs after a tooth extraction. After a tooth extraction, a blood clot forms in the socket, allowing the wound to heal. When this blood clot is dislodged before the wound finishes healing or is otherwise unable to form, this can result in dry socket. Once the bone and nerves in the socket are exposed, patients may experience severe pain and delayed healing.

At Dallas Oral Surgery Associates, we believe educating our patients is a core step in preventing surgical complications, especially during recovery. Recognizing the symptoms of dry socket, its potential causes, and how it can impede healing can help patients understand why certain risky behaviors should be avoided during recovery.

Symptoms of Dry Socket

Dry socket typically occurs 2-4 days after the tooth has been extracted, occurring when the blood clot in the socket has not formed or has become dislodged. This often causes a severe, persistent, and throbbing pain in the mouth and face. This pain may radiate towards the eye or ear. Patients with dry socket may also be able to see the exposed bone in the socket.

Other possible symptoms include:
•  A slight fever
•  Facial tenderness
•  An unpleasant taste in the mouth
•  Bad breath

Dry socket occurs most commonly with wisdom teeth extractions. Generally, teeth extracted from the lower jaw are more likely to develop dry socket.

Causes of Dry Socket

Actions such as smoking or drinking through a straw after a tooth extraction should be avoided at all costs. These can cause the blood clot in the socket to dislodge, increasing your risk for dry socket. We also do not recommend spitting or swishing in the initial days after a tooth extraction, as these behaviors can also put you at risk of developing dry socket.

Other risk factors include:
•  Taking oral contraceptives (birth control)
•  Poor dental hygiene
•  Underlying infection in the mouth or bone

Hard, chewy, or crunchy foods are also not advised during recovery due to the potential risk of dry socket. During recovery, be sure you are only eating soft or liquid foods such as applesauce, yogurt, pasta, eggs, or pudding.

Treating Dry Socket

In most cases, a dry socket will heal without the need for medical intervention. However, you may want to visit with your dentist or oral surgeon to help manage the pain. Pain from dry socket can become so severe that it can interfere with daily activities, and we want to make sure these symptoms are managed during recovery.

Your dentist may also want to examine the wound to rule out possible infection, especially infection in the bone.

In addition to visiting our office, you can also address dry socket at home and manage discomfort by:
•  Gently rinsing the socket with warm salt water
•  Placing medicated gauze in the socket
•  Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
•  Applying an ice pack to the jaw

After an extraction, it is crucial that you follow the oral hygiene and recovery instructions provided by your surgeon. Maintaining proper oral care and managing risks are the best ways to prevent unnecessary pain during recovery.

Want to learn more about how to prevent dry socket at home? Concerned about pain after a tooth extraction? Call our office at 214-363-9946 to schedule an appointment or learn more about dry socket.

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