Tooth extractions are sometimes necessary to remove problematic teeth and prevent them from harming your oral health. Contrary to popular belief, tooth extractions can be performed comfortably and heal rather quickly. In most cases, only minimal discomfort is experienced for a day or two following the extraction. However, in some cases a dry socket may form and cause pain at the extraction site. If you get a dry socket, here is everything you need to know:
Dry sockets occur when there is no blood clot at the extraction site. This can be because the clot never formed or because it formed and was dislodged. Normally, the body forms a blood clot to protect the underlying bone, nerve endings, and tissues within the socket, however in the case of a dry socket, these structures are exposed.
Dry sockets are more likely to occur in women, specifically in those who are on oral contraceptives. This is because increased estrogen levels have been found to affect the healing process. To decrease the risk of developing a dry socket, it is recommended to schedule a tooth extraction for the last week of the menstrual cycle.
Dry sockets are more likelty to occur when molars are extracted. Specifically, those that reside in the lower jaw. People having a surgical extraction to remove an impacted wisdom tooth are also at a higher risk for developing a dry socket. In fact, 30% of surgical extractions for wisdom teeth result in a dry socket.
The most common symptom of a dry socket is a throbbing pain deep in the jaw on the side of the extraction. Pain that radiates up to the ears, eyes, temples, or neck has also been reported. This pain often does not respond to over the counter pain medications and may linger even after taking them. Finally, a foul odor or taste in the mouth is another common sign of a dry socket.
Dentists can easily treat dry sockets during a single office visit. First, they will flush the empty socket to remove any debris. Then, the empty socket will be packed with gauze and pain medications. This helps to alleviate pain and inflammation, as well as protects the underlying structures until the socket can heal. Packing the socket is an effective treatment and many patients experience relief soon after seeking treatment.
Smoking can increase your risk of developing a dry socket since tobacco products delay healing. If you smoke, it is recommended to stop at least 48 hours before your extraction procedure. It is also recommended to avoid smoking for 24-48 hours after your extraction since the suction can dislodge the clot and cause a dry socket.
Not all dry sockets can be prevented, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of developing a dry socket. The most important thing to do is to follow your dentist’s postoperative instructions. These instructions provide information on what you should eat after an extraction and how to clean the extraction area with salt water rinses to prevent disturbing the clot.