What is Dry Socket? – Symptoms, Causes & How To Prevent Dry Socket


If you have recently undergone an adult tooth extraction process, and if it has been three to four days since then, then you must know what is dry socket. Dry socket is, in fact, a pretty typical scenario of the occurrence of a throbbing pain at the point from where the tooth is extracted. Such a condition is often accompanied by foul taste and bad breath in the mouth. If you are not suffering from one, then you should start following dry socket prevention techniques, which we are going to discuss here.

What is Dry Socket – Will Dry Socket heal on its own

Alveolar Osteitis, also known by the name of dry socket, is the inflammation of the jawbone after the extraction of a tooth from it. It is one of a huge number of complications that can result from a tooth extraction and happens in almost 2% of the cases, which makes it relatively rare. However, with the removal of lower wisdom teeth can raise this percentage to 20%.

What is dry socket – Causes and Dry Socket Pain Level

Such a condition usually happens when the blood clot, which is supposed to fill up the socket, is lost, thus leaving the underlying nerves exposed to everything. Often, as the first step after the tooth extraction is clotting of blood on the site, to protect and cover the jawbone. This exposure of the nerves and jawbone, to the environment, delays the healing as well as causes a lot of pain.

Most of the time, a dry socket is the result of mechanical, chemical, physiological or bacterial factors. Each of these elements is explained in a bit detail, below:

  • Bacterial Factors

In case if you are already suffering from a dental or oral disease or a preexisting infection that was present in the mouth, even before the tooth extraction, then there’s a high chance for the blood clot formation to get prevented. Furthermore, certain bacteria present in our mouth can also destroy the clot.

  • Chemical factors

Research proves that the nicotine, used by the smokers, reduces the supply of the blood in the mouth, especially if one doesn’t know how to prevent dry socket while smoking. This reduced blood supply then leads to the failure in the formation of the blood clot at the point, where the recent tooth extraction occurred.

  • Mechanical factors

Factors like aggressive rinsing, sucking through a straw, dragging on a cigarette or spitting results in dislodgement and the loss of the clot.

  • Physiological factors

Physiological factors that can cause dry socket include dense jawbones, hormones or poor supply of the blood.

Risk factors associated with getting dry socket

Before a tooth extraction, the risk factors that can play a leading role in the development of a dry socket include the presence of an impacted wisdom tooth, smoking, being above the age of 30 and being a female. Just as we mentioned above, smoking is one of the primary reasons leading to the problem of dry socket, thanks to the presence of nicotine in it. The ingestion of nicotine reduces the amount of the blood that is being supplied to the healing socket.

The surround gum tissues and the jawbone removal might become necessary or may get affected adversely, particularly during the surgery. So, the extraction of an impacted wisdom teeth can be highly traumatic. Even though such a removal might be necessary, the trauma resulting from it can also boost the chances of getting the problem of dry socket.

Previously present infections like pericoronitis or periodontal disease, at the point of extraction, can make the conditions favorable for a dry socket to occur. Moreover, it has also been found that the chances of a woman to develop a dry socket is much higher than that of men. This is usually due to the hormonal factors that can be interfering with the clotting of the blood.

Patients that are more than 30 years of age, with an impacted wisdom tooth also show an increased risk of dry socket, as with aging, the jawbone receives less blood supply and gets denser. A dense jawbone means an enhanced risk of traumatic extraction, as well as the reduced amount of the blood being that is being supplied.

Signs and Symptoms and healing time of dry socket

Now that you know what is dry socket, you should also be aware of the symptoms associated with it. According to studies, a tell-tale sign is that the jawbone may become visible in the area where the extraction occurred. Moreover, the reduced rate of healing makes the surrounding tissues look gray. The most common symptom of a dry socket is the steady, throbbing pain that starts after a few days after the extraction takes place.

The worst thing, about this pain, is that it can quickly radiate to the other parts of the head, i.e., eyes and ears, particularly on the same side of the face. Due to the accumulation of bacteria and food debris in the socket, you may also experience a bad taste in mouth and bad breath.

Diagnosis of Dry Sockets

A thorough diagnosis of a dry socket takes place while keeping the history of the patient in view. It includes the types and the frequency of the dental treatments, individual’s symptoms and the clinical examination, which the patient underwent for diagnosis.

During the regular healing process, the discomfort caused by the tooth extraction should lessen with the passage of time. But if the pain increases, rather than decreasing, then it surely is an indication of slow healing and can be due to the development of a dry socket. Usually, the symptoms of dry socket start showing themselves with three to four days or within the first week of the extraction.

What is Dry socket treatment?

Treating a fully developed dry socket involves the symptomatic support, as soon as it starts to heal. In the beginning, the dentist might recommend you to go through a gentle irrigation to remove the food debris present in the dry socket. This assists in the reduction of the dry socket healing time. Then, an analgesic packing or medicated dressing is placed over the socket to cover and protect the exposed bone.

The dressing provides immediate relief, as it comes coated with “dry socket paste.” This paste makes use of pain-relieving properties of its ingredients, which include eugenol (clove oil). Moreover, he might also recommend you to use additional medications to get rid of the pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs that are free from steroids (such as Aleve or Advil) or narcotics (such as Acetaminophen / Hydrocodone) are used to relieve the patient of the pain.

 How to Prevent Dry Socket?

The methods used by the surgeon or the dentist, while performing the extraction, directly affect the preventive measures that can be taken by an individual against a dry socket. Such prevention methods include placement of sutures to protect the blood clot, or placing a packing at surgery point with an antibiotic applied to it.

The main things that one should avoid for a few days after the extraction are drinking with a straw, smoking, vigorous rinsing or spitting. Moreover, the diet that the patient should consume should be soft. Try to keep the affected area of the mouth as clean as possible with the help of gentle rinsing and antibacterial solution, such as Peridex (Chlorhexidine Rinse). Don’t forget to follow the instructions that your surgeon gave to you.

Knowing what is dry socket and what you can you do avoid them is pretty important if you want to eliminate the risk of developing a dry socket. Recent studies also reveal that the occurrence of a dry socket in women reduces if the extraction is done during their menses (menstrual period).

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