What is a dry socket? If you’re dealing with appliances or electronics, then a dry socket is a good thing. After all, electricity and water tend to be a dangerous combination. When you are talking about dental health, however, a dry socket is a totally different proposition. In fact, if a dry socket is your dentist’s diagnosis, you have a painful problem that requires prompt attention.
What Is a Dry Socket?
What is a dry socket? Also known as an aveolar osteitis, a dry socket is an inflammation of the alveolus, or tooth socket. An intensely painful condition, it sometimes occurs after a tooth extraction if the healing process is disrupted.
When Healing Goes Wrong
After a tooth is extracted, a blood clot normally forms at the site to protect the bone and nerves at the extraction site. When the blood clot does not form, is dislodged, or breaks down before the healing process is complete, the result is a dry socket.
Symptoms of a Dry Socket
The primary symptom of a dry socket is intense pain that develops in the first five days following a tooth extraction. Without the protective shield of the blood clot, the bone and nerves are exposed, resulting in extreme discomfort that can be either dull and throbbing or sharp and stabbing. Typically, the pain radiates along the nerves to impact the side of the face as well. In addition, inflammation develops in the socket, and if you look closely at the site, you may see a glimpse of bone. You may also experience a foul taste in your mouth or struggle with bad breath.
Some pain is normal after a tooth extraction, but if the healing process is progressing normally, this discomfort should be manageable and begin to wane after 24 hours. If the pain persists and increases instead, a dry socket may be to blame. If you suspect that this issue has developed, it is imperative that you contact your dentist ASAP.
Risk Factors for a Dry Socket
The vast majority of people who have a tooth pulled will not be troubled by a dry socket. However, certain factors can increase the odds that you will develop this problem, including the following:
- You’re a smoker. Tobacco products contain substances known to slow healing.
- You’re female. Women are more likely to develop a dry socket than men. Taking oral contraceptives may also increase the risk of experiencing this issue.
- You have poor oral hygiene habits. Having more bacteria present in the mouth increases the risk of both infection and a dry socket.
- You’re having a wisdom tooth pulled. A dry socket can occur after any tooth extraction, but it is more common after a wisdom tooth is removed.
- You experience unusual trauma during the extraction. When the procedure is complicated or difficult, the odds of developing a dry socket go up.
- You have a history of dry sockets. People who have had prior experience with this painful issue are more likely to encounter it again.
How Is a Dry Socket Treated?
A dry socket is not a problem that resolves on its own, but it is normally quite easy to treat. Once the issue is diagnosed, your dentist will generally rinse out the empty socket to remove any debris and apply medicated dressings. These dressings will help to protect the area and reduce pain. If necessary, the dentist may also prescribe a painkiller to ease your pain and an antibiotic to combat infection. Some patients may need to return to have the medicated dressings replaced, but most will simply need to follow the dentist’s directions for home care and schedule a follow-up visit to verify that everything is healing properly. With appropriate treatment, rest, and care, a dry socket generally heals in 7 to 10 days.
We’ve done our best to answer the titular question, “What is a dry socket?” If you are having a tooth extracted, however, and you’re still worried about potential complications, speak up! Your dentist can provide the facts that you need to feel confident about proceeding with your treatment plan. And if you’re looking for a new dentist, contact Wilkinson Dental if you live in or near Springfield, Missouri. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!