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Dry Socket

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Dry socket is a post operative dental complication that occurs usually after tooth extraction in adults. The person will experience great deal of pain which lingers for a few days. Dry socket is also known as alveolar osteitis because the inflammation occurs in the alveolar bone or the jaw bone.


What causes dry socket?

After your tooth is removed, a blood clot forms at the empty tooth socket which protects the nerves and tissues lying beneath it. Dry socket is characterized by absence of this blood clot after surgery or extraction of tooth. Inflammation occurs in the exposed bone, tissue and nerve endings due to the following reasons:

  • Fresh bacterial infection or pre existing infection- periodontis
  • Trauma from tooth extraction and removal of impacted wisdom tooth – especially after 30 years of age
  • Poor oral hygiene and post operative after care
  • Smoking and chewing tobacco products
  • Past history of dry socket
  • Dense jaw bone with shortage of blood supply to nerve and tissues
  • Use of oral contraceptives and corticosteroids induces hormonal change and is a risk factor for dry socket


Symptoms of dry socket

Pain after tooth extraction is the first symptom of dry socket. It gradually becomes intense after 3-4 days and begins spreading towards your ear, cheeks, face, head, and temples.

Since the blood clot is absent, the underlying jaw bone and structures are visible- i.e. the socket appears empty.

You can feel unpleasant taste in your mouth along with bad breath.

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When to see a doctor?

Visit your dentist as soon as possible after experiencing post surgical pain. The earlier you get treated the quicker it heals.


Diagnosis of dry socket

Your doctor will check your dental history, oral habits and lifestyle. Your oral cavity will be examined physically through which presence of dry socket can be confirmed.

Other tests like dental x ray or bone scan and blood tests would be recommended depending upon your medical history.


Treatment of dry socket

The treatment is directed towards relieving the pain and treating the socket. Your doctor would provide you medicated dressing that implies use of analgesic to mitigate the pain immediately. You have to follow up dental visits to receive the dressings. Secondly, the socket will be irrigated with water to remove food particles and other debris stuck inside it.

Additionally, you will be given pain killers and anti inflammatory medicines to manage the pain. It takes around 7-8 days for the dry socket to heal.


Self care for dry socket

Taking proper care of the socket at home is vital for quick healing of the inflammation. Your doctor will instruct you several things that you must follow at home. They are:

  • Use a plastic syringe to flush the socket with water every day.  Make sure it’s free from food and debris
  • Brush your teeth gently. Make sure you do not rub over the socket. You can use your fingers for a few days till the condition is manageable
  • You can take cold pack over that side of face from where the tooth has been extracted followed by warm compress to reduce the pain
  • Avoid biting hard food, chewing gums, tobacco products and smoking
  • Use salt water or medicated mouthwashes given by your doctor to rinse your mouth after meals

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: October 27, 2014

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