What is Dry Socket?

Dry socket is a condition that occurs in about 2-5% of patients in the days following a tooth extraction. Dry socket is defined by the blood clot that generally forms in the site of a tooth extraction either failing to form or dislodging/receding, revealing bone and nerve underneath.
The exposure of the bone and nerve under the extraction site causes patients to experience a lot of pain, but dry socket is not dangerous. However, dry socket can prolong the healing process as the blood clot will need to re-form to heal the extraction site.

In most occurrences, dry socket will heal on its own, though it will heal more quickly and painlessly with proper treatment. Dry socket can last up to a week depending on how well it is treated.

A number of risk factors can increase the likelihood of dry socket occurring following a tooth extraction procedure, such as:

  • A previous history of experiencing dry socket
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Spitting
  • Drinking from a straw
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Trauma or difficulty during tooth extraction (oftentimes during emergency tooth removal procedures, where infection and inflammation in the gums during the procedure can contribute to dry socket)
  • Wisdom teeth extraction
  • Some oral contraceptives (high levels of estrogen can stunt the healing process)

How Do You Know If You Have Dry Socket?

The easiest way to tell if you have dry socket is to analyze the extraction site. Generally, the blood clot that should be there will have a dark red hue. If you have dry socket, the extraction site will look white, which is the exposed bone underneath.

Further symptoms of dry socket include experiencing a good deal of pain in the area 2-3 days following the procedure. The pain will sometimes also be felt in the neck, jaw, eye, temple, or ear near the site of the extraction.

People with dry socket may also experience tenderness in the area as well as unusually bad breath or a consistently foul taste in the mouth.

How to Prevent Dry Socket

The best way to avoid dry socket is to follow the postoperative directions from your dentist or surgeon. This will include taking medications (such as antibacterial meds and pain reducers) as prescribed as well as cleaning the extraction site as directed.

Itโ€™s important to keep food particles out of the extraction site as well. This can be done by thoroughly irrigating the area with a warm saline rinse after each meal. Eating softer foods during your healing process will make the extraction site easier to clean and will decrease the likelihood of food getting stuck in the socket.

Additionally, itโ€™s crucial to practice proper oral hygiene habits. Your risk of developing dry socket will decrease if you take care of your oral health by brushing twice daily and flossing regularly. However, make sure you brush gently near the extraction site in the early days following your procedure.

How to Treat Dry Socket

Dentist Treatments

Your dentist can treat your dry socket by rinsing your mouth to clear the extraction site of food particles, bacteria, and other debris. They will then fill the site with a special medicated dressing or paste that will help the socket to heal more quickly. The dentist may also cover the extraction site with gauze to prevent bacteria from getting into the extraction site in the future.

Your dentist may prescribe you additional medications to speed up the healing process or prevent pain you might be experiencing.

At Home Treatments

Dry socket can also be treated at home. You can speed up the healing process and reduce pain by:

  • Avoiding tobacco and alcohol while the site heals
  • Taking medication prescribed by the dentist
  • Cleaning the area diligently as directed

If youโ€™re experiencing pain from a dry socket, visit your dentist immediately. At Loudoun Smile Center, we have experience helping patients all over Northern Virginia and the D.C. metro area recover from dry sockets. If you need help with a dry socket or have any other oral health-related needs, give us a call to schedule an appointment.