Dry socket, technically called alveolar osteitis, occurs when your extraction site doesn’t heal properly after you’ve had a tooth removed. Dry socket can happen during any type of tooth extraction, including wisdom teeth removal, and is more common in complex or problematic extraction procedures.
After a tooth is removed, there’s essentially a hole left in your jawbone where the tooth was. During a normal healing process, a blood clot will develop over the hole, forming the foundation of what will eventually be bone and soft tissue. However, if the blood clot doesn’t properly form, is dislodged, or dissolves during the early stages of healing, dry socket occurs. The hole, bone, and nerve tissue are exposed to air, food debris, and bacteria. Typically, people are most at risk for dry socket within a few days after their tooth extraction .
Symptoms of a Dry Socket
How do you know if you have dry socket following a tooth extraction? Dry socket is typically very painful, and you may experience symptoms such as:
- Pain or inflammation around the tooth extraction site. The pain could radiate from your jaw throughout your face on the side where your tooth was removed.
- You may be able to see bone when looking at the extraction site.
- A bad taste or smell in your mouth, which could be the result of food debris getting stuck in the extraction site and potentially causing an infection.
- You may have a low or high-grade fever.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should always reach out to your dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible to treat the condition and avoid further complications!
Treatment for Dry Socket Following a Tooth Extraction
Treatment for dry socket will depend on how severe the condition is. At the very least, you’ll need to come back in to see your dentist to get the problem addressed. Your dentist will determine if the blood clot is missing and carefully clean the extraction site.
You may need to be on antibiotic therapy to prevent or cure any infection, and you may have to come back in to see your dentist periodically to ensure the site is healing properly. Your dentist can also advise you on pain management techniques to help with your discomfort .
Who’s at Risk for the Condition?
Fortunately, dry socket is a relatively rare occurrence. You may be more at risk to develop dry socket after a tooth extraction if you smoke or use tobacco, have poor oral hygiene, or have a tooth removed on your lower jaw as opposed to your upper jaw .
In the majority of cases, dry socket can be prevented by carefully following your dentist’s or oral surgeon’s care instructions for healing. Often, these measures will include avoiding using a straw, avoiding smoking or tobacco use, and properly cleaning your oral cavity without touching the extraction site.
If you need to get a tooth removed, rest assured that dry socket is uncommon. However, if you have concerns about dry socket or are worried that you may have developed the condition, it’s essential to follow up with your oral healthcare professional as soon as possible!