You might already know that having a tooth pulled out is not a particularly pleasant experience. And, there’s sure to be a bit of discomfort and pain during and after the procedure.
However, sometimes, the pain can become too intense, and may even worsen after a few days following the extraction. If that happens, you might be dealing with a dry socket or alveolar osteitis.
But you don’t have to worry, this article will take a deep dive and learn more about dry sockets. From how common is dry socket to what you can do about it, this article’s here to answer all of your questions about this painful yet treatable condition.
What Is a Dry Socket?
Dry socket, or alveolar osteitis, is a painful dental condition that can occur after an adult tooth extraction. To put it simply, a dry socket happens when the blood clot in your extraction socket fails to develop or it dissolves or dislodges before the wound has fully healed.
Why is the blood clot so important? Because it forms at the site of the extraction and serves as a protective layer over the nerve endings and underlying bone in the socket. Not only that but the clot also provides the necessary foundation for the growth of the new bone and for the soft tissue that will eventually cover it.
Causes of Dry Socket
The precise cause of dry sockets is still under debate, however, dentists believe that bacterial contamination of the socket is the main cause. Similarly, trauma resulting from a difficult extraction can increase the chances of a dry socket.
Even so, there are a couple of factors that can increase the risk of dry sockets, such as:
• Improper aftercare. Failure to follow the aftercare guidelines, combined with poor oral hygiene, can cause dry sockets.
• Gum or tooth infections. Any current or previous infections near the site of the extraction increase the risk of dry sockets.
• Smoking and drinking. Cigarettes or similar products contain chemicals that slow down or even prevent healing and may contaminate the wound site. Due to its chemical structure, alcohol can also damage blood clots.
• Previous experience with dry sockets. If you have been dealing with dry sockets in the past, you are prone to developing them again after future extractions.
Symptoms of Dry Socket
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The most common symptoms of dry sockets include:
• Intense pain a couple of days after the extraction.
• Partial or even total loss of the blood clot, characterized by an empty-looking socket.
• Visible bone in the extraction socket.
• Unpleasant taste in your mouth.
• Foul odor or bad breath coming from your mouth.
• Pain that radiates to your eye, temple, neck, or your ear from the extraction socket.
How Quickly Can Dry Socket Happen?
Generally speaking, symptoms of a dry socket develop two to four days after an extraction. As a matter of fact, most dry sockets occur within the first week of tooth extraction. It’s worth noting that the fifth day is the most critical, as you’ll experience the greatest amount of pain. Fortunately, in the following days, the pain should lose its intensity and become more bearable.
Is Dry Socket More Common on Top or Bottom?
It’s important to mention that dry sockets are more common in the lower teeth than those in the top of the mouth. Actually, almost all dry sockets develop after the removal of the lower molars.
However, there is no consensus on why lower teeth are more prone to dry sockets than their upper counterparts. And with so many possible risk factors, it can be hard to determine exactly what makes them so vulnerable to this painful condition.
Treatment and Prevention
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Even though dry sockets are extremely painful and can really mess up your daily routine, they are treatable. Yet, it is essential that you contact your dentist as soon as you notice any of the possible symptoms.
Then, he will inspect, clean, and fill the socket with a medicated dressing to promote healing. Additionally, he can prescribe you a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or antibiotics to reduce the chance of further infections.
But, like with anything, prevention is better than cure. And, luckily, there are a variety of things you can do to reduce the chances of a dry socket:
• Avoid using a straw. Sucking on a straw creates suction, which could dislodge the blood clot and pull it away from the socket, causing a dry socket. That’s why you should avoid using a straw for at least 48 hours after the extraction.
• Don’t smoke or chew tobacco. Tobacco can interfere with blood flow and reduce the healing rate of your extraction site. As a result, most doctors recommend that you avoid it for at least 72 hours.
• Eat soft foods. Crunchy or hard foods can damage the blood clot or even dislodge it entirely. Not only that but they could leave debris behind, which can slow down the healing rate. Therefore, you should switch to a diet based on smoothies, yogurt, soups, and other soft foods for at least two weeks following the procedure.
• Don’t brush the extraction site. Last but not least, you should avoid brushing the extraction site directly for three to four days. That’s because you could end up disturbing the blood clot, triggering a dry socket by mistake.
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