A dry socket is healing complication that can occurs after a tooth has been removed by a dentist when the blot clot becomes dislodged or fails to form properly.
Normal Healing Process
Normally, after the tooth has been removed a scab (blot clot) begins to form over the tooth socket. Over the next week to 10 days, the patient would ideally be experiencing gradual, progressive healing as gum tissue replaces the clot. In time, the tooth socket will eventually fill in with new bone.
A dry socket (Alveolar Osteitis) is a painful complication that can occurs if the scab forming over the extraction area becomes disturbed or lost and the underlying bone that lines the tooth socket becomes exposed to the germs, saliva and food debris in the mouth. Symptoms usually starts appearing 2-4 days after the extraction of the tooth.
The patient will typically have swelling, redness, bad breath/taste in mouth and an aching, throbbing pain in the area of the tooth socket. Sometimes this pain radiates along the jaw and into the ears or neck areas. Unfortunately, this pain does not usually respond to any pain medication and must be treated immediately by a dentist.
It is very important that patients follow all of the after surgery instructions given to them by their dentist in order to avoid the possibility of a dry socket because most time this condition can be avoided.
It is important that the scab that is forming over the site not be dislodged. We advise patients not to disturb the healing site by probing the area with your tongue or fingers, smoking, rinsing too soon or spitting too vigorously, sucking popsicles or using a straw.
The sucking action that occurs when a person draws in on a cigarette can cause enough negative pressure that it also draws the scab away from the healing site. In addition, nicotine has substances that reduces blood flow at a time when blood circulation is so essential in the healing process. Other things that can disturb clot formations and should be avoided if possible are exercise, laying flat when resting, sneezing, coughing and carbonated, alcoholic or hot drinks.
This condition will not go away on it’s own, in fact, it usually worsens. The pain can be so excruciating that a person usually seeks medical help immediately. After examining the area and determining that, indeed, a dry socket exists, the dentist will rinse any debris present then place a medicated paste into the open socket. This medicated dressing is left in the socket and the patient returns for a dressing change 2-3 times more depending on the severity of the condition. Unfortunately, a dry socket will prolong the normal healing time. Patients are encouraged to follow all instruction given by the dentist to avoid any further complications.
If you suspect that your may have a dry socket, see your dentist immediately. Prompt diagnosis of dry socket will allow the blot clot to fill back in so that the area can begin healing again.
Yours in Better Dental Health,
The Your Smile Dental Care Team