Dry socket is a painful oral condition that can arise following a tooth extraction, such as wisdom tooth removal. The condition develops when the blood clot at the extraction site does not develop or is prematurely dissolves or dislodged before the socket is completely healed, exposing the socket to potential contamination.
Blood clots provide a protective layer over the underlying nerve endings and bone and serve as a foundation for new bone and soft tissue growth. When blood clots are dislodged before healing is complete, an intensely painful condition known as dry socket develops.
What Causes Dry Socket?
Exact causes of dry socket are yet unknown but are thought to be the result of certain conditions, such as bacterial contamination or trauma at the surgical site. Whatever the cause, there are factors that may put some individuals in more risk of developing dry socket than others, such as:
- Smoking and tobacco: The chemicals contained in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco contaminate the wound and slow or prevent the healing process. Additionally, the act of sucking or drawing on cigarettes can cause the blood clot in the wound to dislodge prematurely, exposing the wound to contaminants.
- Improper care: Patients who do not follow post-surgical at-home care orders, or have poor oral hygiene habits, have an increased risk of developing dry socket.
- Oral contraceptives: The high level of estrogen contained in most oral contraceptives has been found to interrupt normal healing processes and increase the risk of a dry socket.
- Prior dry socket history: Patients who have experienced dry sockets in the past are more likely to develop another following tooth extraction.
- Infection: Teeth or gums currently or previously infected near the extraction site have an increased risk of experiencing a dry socket.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Socket?
Following a tooth extraction, a certain level of pain or discomfort is to be expected and is generally treatable with pain medication prescribed by the oral surgeon. If you experience new or worsening pain that is not eased with medication, you may have developed dry socket and should contact your surgeon. Signs and symptoms of dry socket include:
- Worsening or severe pain a few days after surgery.
- Premature partial or complete loss of the blood clot at the extraction site.
- Visible bone in the tooth extraction socket.
- Radiating pain from the tooth socket to your eye, ear, temple, or neck on the same side of your face as the extraction.
- Foul odor or bad breath.
- Unpleasant or bad taste in your mouth.
How Can Dry Socket Be Prevented?
Following your surgery, your oral surgeon will recommend certain medications to help protect the socket and prevent dry socket, including antibacterial mouthwash, oral antibiotics, antiseptic solutions, and medicated dressings. Your surgeon will also provide you with after-care instructions, which may include:
- Pain: To manage your pain, take your prescribed medication as directed, and apply alternating cold and warm packs to the outside of your face on the extraction side.
- Activity: Following surgery, you should engage in minimal activity and rest for the remainder of the day, and follow the surgeon’s instructions on when and what kinds of activity can be resumed.
- Food: Following surgery, consume only soft foods, such as yogurt, the first day or as recommended by your surgeon.
- Drinks: Surgeons typically recommend drinking lots of water following your surgery to keep you hydrated and to aid in the healing process. Avoid hot, cold, carbonated, and alcoholic beverages, and do not use straws as the sucking action will dislodge the blood clot.
- Cleaning: Do not brush your teeth or rinse your mouth during the first 24 hours following surgery, then begin rinsing your mouth with warm salt water several times a day for the first week, along with brushing your teeth, but avoid the extraction site.
- Tobacco: Do not smoke or use other tobacco products for at least 48 hours following surgery or longer, if you are able.
South Jersey Oral Surgeons at Lanzi Burke Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons Perform Tooth Extraction
If you need a tooth extraction, or are suffering dry socket following an extraction, one of our experienced South Jersey oral surgeons at Lanzi Burke Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons can help treat the site and ease your pain. Call us today at 856-582-4222 or contact us online. Located in Washington Township, Haddonfield, and Woolwich Township, New Jersey, we are dedicated to helping patients throughout South Jersey.