It is that time of year when students are headed to the oral surgeon to have their wisdom teeth extracted which means an increase in dry socket cases for our office. While having an extraction is not a comfortable experience it should not be an extremely painful. If you start to experience intense pain that does not go away after a few days, chances are you have a dry socket. Only a very small percentage develop dry socket after a tooth extraction. Fortunately, it's easily treatable.
The socket is the hole in the bone where the tooth has been removed. After a tooth is pulled, a blood clot forms in the socket to protect the bone and nerves underneath. Sometimes that clot can become dislodged or dissolve a couple of days after the extraction. That leaves the bone and nerve exposed to air, food, fluid, and anything else that enters the mouth. This can lead to infection and severe pain that can last for 5 or 6 days.
What are the symptoms of dry socket?
If you look into the site where the tooth was pulled, you'll probably see a dry-looking opening. Instead of a dark blood clot, there will just be whitish bone. The pain typically starts about 2 days after the tooth was pulled. Over time it becomes more severe and can radiate to your ear.
Other symptoms of dry socket include bad breath and an unpleasant smell and taste in your mouth.
How Is Dry Socket Treated?
You can take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to ease the discomfort. Sometimes these over-the-counter medications aren't enough to relieve the pain. When that's the case, your doctor may prescribe a stronger drug or will anesthetize the area.
Your dentist will clean the tooth socket, removing any debris from the hole, and then fill the socket with a medicated dressing or a special paste to promote healing. You'll probably have to come back to the dentist's office every day for a dressing change until the socket starts to heal and your pain lessens.
Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to prevent the socket from becoming infected. To care for the dry socket at home, your dentist may recommend that you rinse with salt water or a special mouthwash every day.