What is a Dry Socket?
A dry socket is a hole left behind when your tooth is extracted either as part of wisdom teeth extractions or due to extensive tooth decay. Dry sockets occur in about 3% or 4% of all cases that involve tooth extraction.
When a tooth is pulled, it leaves an indentation in the jaw where it used to be located. This is different than simply losing a tooth, which normally results in a socket that is barely visible.
Before modern dentistry, dry sockets were simply left alone after a tooth extraction. This would then result in a blood clot forming in the indentation, which would then be followed by bone growth. Healthy gum tissue would then replace the blood clot and leave you with a healthy mouth in a matter of 3 to 4 days.
However, blood clots are unpredictable and can often lead to complications. Blood clots can slide out, leaving a socket where bacteria can infect or where abnormal growth can occur.
Without blood clots being present, severe pain can occur shortly after the tooth extraction. This often occurs within 48 hours of the procedure and must be followed by a dentist visit immediately.
Dry Socket Symptoms
Dry socket is often followed by throbbing and severe pain which can make any activity such as eating and drinking unbearable. It could also lead to swollen gums and pus in the area as a result of the body attempting to fight the bacterial infection. In some cases, there can even be visible bone as a result of the recent tooth extraction.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that dry socket is not life threatening. If acted upon quickly, the extraction healing should occur without a problem regardless of the discomfort and the bacterial infection.
Dry Socket Treatment
A dentist will inspect your dry socket and might choose to irrigate it by removing bacteria and build up in the area with water. Afterwards, gel is placed in the area to help stimulate healing. It may be necessary to visit the dentist’s office regularly afterwards in order to ensure that it is healing properly.
If there are concerns regarding your health, a dentist may prescribe some antibiotics along with pain medication in order to ensure that there are no complications. This will help manage pain as the jaw heals while also reducing swelling and helping fight any bacterial infection that might occur in the area.
When a dry socket has been treated, the area should heal completely within a time span of 7 to 10 days
Preventing Dry Socket
After the dental surgery, your dentist or oral surgeon will provide a cotton ball or plug for the socket. This will prevent you from biting down on the area and will protect from any debris that could fall in it.
In some cases, they might decide to stitch the area to help it heal better. This can often be done with stitches that dissolve after a week or two and allow the socket to be joined together during the healing process.
Synthetic bone grafts can also be used to help the healing process in the case of a dry socket. While blood clots are a natural part of the body’s healing, a graft can stay in place while the bone around it grows. It’s an effective alternative that uses denser and stable material and allows for more secure positioning which can provide the dry socket with the structure it needs to heal.
Avoid direct contact with the dry socket
Eating, drinking through a straw, spitting, gargling with water, or inhaling too hard can all cause the blood clots in your mouth to be damaged or destroyed.
Avoid lying down flat in your bed
Lying on your back after the tooth extraction surgery can cause the blood clot to grow incorrectly and cause it to slide out of the socket.
Avoid physical activities or sports during healing
Physical activities could cause the blood clot to fall or be removed, leaving the socket to be exposed. This will lead to dry socket or could further cause problems that can slow down healing.
Avoid brushing the area for at least 4 days
Direct pressure in the extraction area could cause the blood clot or the bone graft to be damaged or removed, so it’s best to leave the area alone. While it’s normally essential to wash your teeth twice a day, every day, this could lead to more harm than good. Allow 3 to 4 days after the tooth extraction in order to allow the area to heal.
Don’t smoke during the healing process
Avoid using any tobacco products for at least 24 hours after the extraction, failing to do so could lead to dry socket.
If you’re using birth control, talk to your dentist
Estrogen levels could cause some complications during the healing process, especially during blood clotting. It’s important to mention this to your dentist to perform the surgery on a day when the estrogen levels in your body are low.