Did you know that a dry socket is the most common complication of a tooth extraction? Although 2-5% of extracted teeth can develop a dry socket, this condition is more likely to occur in extracted wisdom teeth and can occur in 30% of wisdom tooth extractions. While you may never experience a dry socket, it is still beneficial to know a little about the condition if you plan on having a tooth extracted. Here is everything you need to know about dry sockets:
What is a dry socket?
Alveolar osteitis, also known as dry socket, is a tooth extraction complication characterized by the absence or loss of a protective blood clot. You see, when a tooth is extracted the body will naturally create a protective blood clot over the empty socket to protect the underlying tissues, bone, and nerve endings. If this clot fails to form or becomes dislodged somehow, then the tissues, bone, and nerve endings are exposed and are known as a dry socket.
What are the symptoms of a dry socket?
One of the most common symptoms of a dry socket is pain due to the exposure of the underlying structures. Pain associated with a dry socket is generally described as a throbbing pain deep within the jaw on the same side of the extraction. Some people also experience pain that radiates into the ears, eyes, temples, or neck. In addition to pain, a bad smell or taste in your mouth is another sign of a dry socket. If you think you have a dry socket, you may be able to see exposed bone in the empty tooth socket when you look in the mirror.
How is a dry socket treated?
Your dentist will first examine the extraction site for signs of infection and to confirm a dry socket. They will then clean the socket by gently flushing it with water. The empty socket will then be packed with pain medications and gauze. Most patients note that this treatment alleviates their pain almost immediately. In some cases, your dentist may also show you how to do this on your own and provide you with the necessary supplies for home care.
Who is at risk of developing a dry socket?
While having a tooth extraction is the main risk factor for developing a dry socket, there are some additional things that can increase your chances of a dry socket. For starters, people who smoke are at a higher risk because tobacco products delay healing and can interfere with clot formation. Women are also at a higher risk, especially if they take oral contraceptives. This is due to the fact that high estrogen levels can also interfere with the healing process. Dry sockets are also more likely to occur on the lower jaw and in molar extractions.
How are dry sockets prevented?
Some cases of dry sockets cannot be prevented, however there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of developing a dry socket. The best way to prevent a dry socket is to follow your dentist’s postoperative instructions since most of these instructions are designed to prevent complications like a dry socket. These instructions also provide information on what food to eat and how to keep your mouth clean using saltwater rinses.