Dry socket means the failure of appropriate healing after tooth extraction due to disruption of the initial clot with eventual lack of organization by granulation tissue. Dry socket is also known as alveolar osteitis.
Dry socket is the most common complication of an extraction. It occurs more frequently with impacted third molar extractions.
A person can stop worrying about dry socket one-week post tooth extraction. After extraction of the tooth, remodeling of the bone takes place. It takes around 3 to 4 months for the complete remodeling process and for complete bone formation in the bony socket.
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When can I stop worrying about dry socket?
Dry sockets form before the socket is completely healed. The normal healing process takes 7 to 10 days. The risk of a dry socket is present until the bone is healed. Preventive measures taken during the first 24 hours after tooth extraction helps to reduce the risk of dry socket.
Reasons for the dry socket to occur:
1) If the socket was infected before tooth extraction
2) Due to smoking after extraction
3) Excessive rinsing after tooth extraction
4) Eating hard and crunchy food. Such food accumulates in the socket and interferes in the process of healing
5) Eating hard food from the extracted side of the tooth
6) Brushing hard at the site of tooth extraction
7) Poking the extraction area with your tongue
8) Sucking on a straw to consume liquids
9) Having very hot or acidic drinks
10) Due to alcohol intake
11) Use of alcohol-based mouthwash
12) Previous radiotherapy
13) Limited local blood supply
14) Hormonal imbalance
Tips to help reduce the risk of dry socket:
1) Strictly following the post-operative instructions given by the dentist
2) Resting for a few days after an extraction. Not exerting yourself.
3) Taking care of the wound and avoiding any injuries at the site of tooth extraction
What causes dry socket?
A dry socket occurs when a clot is not formed in the bony socket. It can also happen when the clot gets dislodged. The absence of a blood clot leaves the wound exposed.
Another reason for this infection is the accumulation of food particles in the empty socket.
The infected socket is very sensitive and painful. It commonly occurs 1 to 3 days after tooth extraction.
Dry socket symptoms
After the extraction of a tooth, blood clot forms, which stops further bleeding. The clot formed protects the wound and promotes healing.
Dry socket develops if there is no formation of a blood clot in the wound and the bony wall of the socket gets exposed to air, food, fluids etc. The exposure of the wound makes it very painful.
Symptoms of dry socket:
1) Severe pain within a few days post tooth extraction
2) Empty socket and exposed wound
3) Bony walls of the socket become visible
4) Socket filled with food debris
5) Bad taste in the mouth
7) Pain extending across the side of the face
How to prevent dry socket?
- One can avoid dry socket formation by allowing uninterrupted clot formation.
- Hold gauze tightly over the wound for 30 to 45 minutes. This allows clot formation and healing of the socket.
- Consume only soft food and chew from the other side of the mouth. Avoid eating hard food and avoid any injury to the wound.
- Avoid smoking. If smoking is unavoidable, then the usage of special oxidized cellulose dressing can help prevent dry socket.
- Avoid hot drinks and acidic beverages like soda or juices. They may disintegrate the blood clot and cause a dry socket.
- Avoid using a straw while consuming liquids. The sucking motion can dislodge the clot.
- Avoid vigorous mouth rinsing and brushing. Rinsing should be done with warm, salted water 12 hours after the surgery. This helps in keeping the socket clean and free of debris.
- Apply icepacks on the face at the side of the tooth extraction.
When should you call a dentist?
Dry socket can be very painful when not attended early. Call a dentist if you experience the following:
1) The wound doesn’t heal even after 3 to 5 days post-extraction
2) Intense pain
3) Foul breath
How to treat dry socket?
The dentist first performs an oral examination. He/she then notes the signs and symptoms of the patient. The treatment which follows is provided below:
- The dentist will clean and remove all the debris from the socket.
- The dentist will then induce bleeding.
- The dentist will place gauze on the wound and ask the patient to bite tightly over it. This procedure will help in clot formation.
- Medications will also be placed in the socket to facilitate healing.
- The dentist will then prescribe pain killers and antibiotics to relieve the pain and to prevent infection in the socket.
- The dentist will ask the patient to rinse with warm saltwater. Rinsing with warm saltwater helps to clean the debris. It also helps to increase blood flow at the site.
- The dentist will give adequate instructions on how to take care of the dry socket. The patient needs to follow these instructions strictly
The healing process will take a few days to complete
Dry sockets are very painful. This complication arises when the clot does not form in the socket or if it gets dislodged. We can stop worrying about dry socket after clot formation.
We can prevent this complication by taking post-operative care.
Following the instructions given by the dentist and taking precautions reduces the risk of dry socket and enables healthy recovery.