You probably think having a tooth pulled is not a particularly enjoyable experience. And you no doubt expect to have some discomfort afterward. But that’s OK, you say. You can endure it when you need to. But if the pain becomes intense and perhaps even worsen after a few days, it may be a symptom of a condition called dry socket, or alveolar osteitis.
Only a very small percentage — about 2% to 5% of people — develop dry socket after a tooth extraction. In those who have it, though, dry socket can be uncomfortable. Fortunately, it’s easily treatable.
The socket is the hole in the bone where the tooth has been removed. After a tooth is pulled, a blood clot forms in the socket to protect the bone and nerves underneath. Sometimes that clot can become dislodged or dissolve a couple of days after the extraction. That leaves the bone and nerve exposed to air, food, fluid, and anything else that enters the mouth. This can lead to infection and severe pain that can last for 5 or 6 days.
Who Is Likely to Get Dry Socket?
Some people may be more likely to get dry socket after having a tooth pulled. That includes people who:
- have poor oral hygiene
- have wisdom teeth pulled
- have greater-than-usual trauma during the tooth extraction surgery
- use birth control pills
- have a history of dry socket after having teeth pulled
Rinsing and spitting a lot or drinking through a straw after having a tooth extracted also can raise your risk of getting dry socket.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Socket?
If you look into the site where the tooth was pulled, you’ll probably see a dry-looking opening. Instead of a dark blood clot, there will just be whitish bone. The pain typically starts about 2 days after the tooth was pulled. Over time it becomes more severe and can radiate to your ear.
Other symptoms of dry socket include bad breath and an unpleasant smell and taste in your mouth.
How Is Dry Socket Treated?
You can take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to ease the discomfort. Sometimes these over-the-counter medications aren’t enough to relieve the pain. When that’s the case, our Beaufort SC dentists may prescribe a stronger drug or will anesthetize the area.
What Can I Do to Prevent Dry Socket?
Because smoking is a big risk factor for dry socket, avoid cigarettes, cigars, and any other tobacco products for a day or so after your surgery. If you take birth control pills, ask your dentist about performing the extraction on a day when you are getting the lowest dose of estrogen. The hormone can affect the ability of the blood to clot. Also, check with one of our dentist about other medications you are taking that can interfere with normal blood clotting.
After surgery, avoid drinking through a straw and spitting for the first few days. Also don’t rinse your mouth more than your dentist recommends. If you do rinse, do so gently. Our dentist always ask that patients are diligent about all scheduled follow-up visits.
If you are having symptoms of Dry Mouth following a tooth removal, one of our Lady’s Island dentists are always available to evaluate your condition and provide recommendations. You can reach us by calling 843-986-0177 or filling out our online appointment form.