A Dry Socket (alveolar osteitis) is a side effect or complication of a tooth removal surgery.
It results when a blood clot does not form to protect the teeth and gums and dislodges.
After tooth extraction, this blood clot forms to assist in healing and protecting the hole, bones and nerve endings in your gums.
It lays a foundation for the growth of the bone and soft tissue in the tooth socket.
Hence, if it dissolves without forming, you get alveolar osteitis.
People can get it after wisdom teeth removal.
However, it is still rare to get it and only has a probability of 1.8 percent.
This article discusses the symptoms, causes and treatment of this condition which you may get after tooth removal.
Are you going to have a recent tooth extraction? Read more to know if you can get this as a complication!
What Causes Dry Socket?
An alveolar osteitis forms originally due to the blood clot.
As the blood clot does not cover the nerves and the empty space by not forming new bone and soft tissue, it exposes the tooth socket.
Hence, that results in extreme pain in about one to three days after tooth extraction.
A natural response to tooth removal is the blood clot but since it fails to develop then everything goes down.
Another situation is that the blood clot forms however it dislodges from the gums.
This happens before the wound has healed completely leaving you again with a vacant socket.
You must be thinking what hinders blood clot formation?
While there is still less evidence over it, it is either thought to be bacterial contamination or trauma to the treatment site.
Bacterial contamination can occur because of any external food or drink consumption.
Or there can be trauma if the removal was tough.
For instance, an impacted wisdom tooth removal may cause trauma to the treatment site and so can poking the site with your toothbrush.
However, you may also get this condition because you are at a higher risk.
Who exactly is at a higher risk? Find out below!
Am I At Risk?
If you want to get a tooth extraction in the near future then you will be at risk of developing alveolar osteitis if:
- You Smoke or use Tobacco Products
Smoking and tobacco use interferes with healing.
You can also dislodge your blood clot before healing by inhaling a cigarette.
It can further lead to contamination in the wound site.
The unhealthy chemicals in tobacco can prevent any form of healing thus preventing blood clots.
- There is a previous Dry Socket
If you’ve had alveolar osteitis in the past then there is a chance that you may get it again.
- You are on Birth Control Pills
If you take oral contraceptives then you will have a high amount of estrogen in your body.
These interfere with the normal healing process bringing you to greater risk.
- You have an Infection near the treatment site
If you have a tooth infection anywhere near the treatment site and the vacant socket then it is likely that it gets contaminated with bacteria from the infection.
hence, that disrupts healing and blood clot formation.
- You don’t take proper Aftercare
After every dental procedure, it is crucial to follow post-procedural care and maintain your oral hygiene.
If you miss that then you may develop alveolar osteitis at your extraction site.
Right after your treatment follow proper dental hygiene and do as the dentist says to avoid any complications such as chronic bone infection.
These risk factors increase the risk of dry socket and you are more likely to develop dry socket.
Dry Socket Symptoms
You will not immediately feel any symptoms after your tooth extraction.
The first signs and symptoms appear a day or two after the procedure.
You can see it in a mirror as there will be an exposed bone in the socket where there previously was a tooth.
Moreover, you will feel intense pain in the extraction site.
However, this pain does not remain there but travels along the nerve endings to the ear, neck and eye on the same side of the tooth.
Additionally, you will also feel a very foul smell or bad breath inside your mouth and coming out of it.
There can be a total blood clot loss as well as a partial dry socket as the socket will look empty.
Furthermore, you will also feel a bad taste in your mouth constantly.
You can see the alveolar osteitis by checking your extraction site in a mirror and it will be an empty socket.
Experiencing some degree of pain is usual after any dental procedure and especially an extensive one such as tooth extraction.
However, that should go away by consuming an oral medication or a pain reliever.
If the throbbing pain persists then you should consult your dentist to treat it.
Dry Socket Treatment
Your dentist can immediately tell if you have alveolar osteitis on the basis of your symptoms.
They will suspect it considering you got pain after an extraction.
However, they may still suggest getting an X-ray to check for remaining fragments in the wound.
If they exist then first they will flush it out to completely eliminate any food debris, fragments and food particles that prevent blood clotting by causing infection.
Next, they will try to reduce your pain by filling the socket with medicated dressings, gauze and gels.
The treatment of dry socket helps in pain management by using dressings and pain medications.
While this method works fast in eliminating pain and numbs it, you may require dressing changes if you have extreme pain.
They can guide you about doing it at home.
Or they will determine if you need additional visits and some other treatment.
They will also prescribe you a pain reliever to work alongside their treatment even though over-the-counter medicines like aspirin can still work for you.
After that, you will have to take care of your condition yourself.
You have a task to do!
First, you will flush your socket as the dentist removes the dressing.
This isn’t a tough task.
The dentist will guide you about the procedure and give you a plastic syringe.
You will drop saltwater, simple water, or a rinse into the socket using the syringe.
All of this will promote healing and you shall continue it till you no longer see any debris.
You will notice a gradual decrease in pain and it will likely go away in a matter of days.
While the dentist may flush out your socket and numb the pain, you will still have to follow some oral care so that the socket does not collect debris again.
This includes quitting smoking and avoiding any tobacco products for the time being until the wound is completely healed.
Tobacco can disrupt healing hence, it will make your condition worse.
While you are controlling smoking, keep drinking lots of water.
The pain medicines may cause you nausea and dehydration hence drink plenty of water to keep your mouth hydrated.
Furthermore, keep rinsing your mouth especially the affected area with saltwater regularly.
Take special care while brushing your teeth to not poke the treatment area and worsen it.
Gently brush in circular strokes.
Moreover, be wary of what you eat.
Avoid sticky foods or those that can cause irritation in the socket.
Alongside that also avoid carbonated drinks.
Prevent any dislodging of the dressing by not sucking your drinks through a straw.
During healing take special care of what you eat or drink and avoid any hard foods that can disrupt healing.
While a dry socket is treatable, it is much easier and pain-free to prevent dry socket.
Do you want to know how? Read below!
Prevention and Precautionary Measures
If you know you need a tooth extraction, discuss your lifestyle with your dentist and the chances of getting alveolar osteitis.
Thoroughly discuss any medical conditions, lifestyle, and medicines that can hinder blood clotting.
If you smoke, your dentist will advise you to quit before the surgery.
Your dentist may also take certain precautions right after the surgery so that there is no chance of alveolar osteitis.
This includes rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash to prevent infection after and before your procedure.
They may also apply a medicated dressing right after surgery without waiting for any complications and apply an antiseptic solution to the socket.
They may also suggest you take an antibiotic to prevent any bacterial infection especially if you have weak immunity.
Moreover, they will guide you about the precautionary measures you can take right after the surgery to increase wound healing.
You need to take enough rest to prevent any dislodging of the clot.
Physical activity can lead to dislodging and dissolving the clot in the socket, hence take adequate rest.
Mange the swelling and pain after extraction using cold and hot packs.
Place cold packs on the side of the face after surgery and the next day put hot packs.
- caffeine, carbonated drinks, hot drinks and using straws to prevent dislodging the clot.
- chewing using the teeth on the surgery side
- hard foods
- smoking and using tobacco
- brushing on the extraction site
Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated and to get rid of nausea.
Eat soft foods like yogurt and porridge.
Take salt water rinses regularly in a day.
If you follow the instructions of your doctor and take proper post-procedural care, you can avoid a Dry Socket.
Prevention is much easier than treatment.
Hence, consult your doctor and follow their advice.