What is a dry socket?
Extraction of a tooth is a daunting experience. Even if the dentist injects anaesthesia, and the pain is not too severely felt, the idea of pulling out a tooth can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, one endures it and the mild discomfort that follows for a few days after the removal.
But if the pain and discomfort is too intense, it’s better not to ignore it. Because this could be a symptom of the condition called a dry socket.
Dry socket or alveolar osteitis, occurs when the blood clot that covers the hole in your tooth dissolves or dislodges. This leaves your bone and nerves open to air, food, activities and anything else you allow in your mouth. It occurs in 5% of cases from all the tooth extractions.
How does it occur?
When your tooth is pulled out, blood collects in the opening or socket. This blood helps protect your bones and nerve underneath the now absent tooth. It saves it from invasion of food, air or fluid, giving the bone a chance to heal over time.
The loss of the blood clot is severely painful and the pain can last 5 – 6 days. It could also lead to infection.
The symptoms of dry socket include:
- Severe pain that intensifies 3 to 5 days after the extraction. Normal extraction pain starts growing milder in a day or two.
- Bad breath
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth
What triggers it?
The following factors put you at a higher risk of getting a dry socket.
- Poor oral health practices
- Wisdom tooth extraction
- Medication like birth control pills
- History of dry socket post extraction
- Drinking through a straw, rinsing and spitting
How is it treated?
- Over the counter medicines can help alleviate the pain, but severe cases need to be checked by the dentist.
- The dentist will clean the area, and fill the socket with a medication that stimulates the healing process.
- Antibiotics may be recommended by your dentist to ensure infection doesn’t spread.
- They may also suggest you rinse with salt water or a special mouthwash.
How to avoid it?
It puts you at a higher risk of getting a dry socket so avoid it entirely.
If you are taking pills, ensure you get them checked by your dentist. This is to check whether they will interfere with the blood clotting process that is essential to healing your socket. Disclose all medication you are on before proceeding with the extraction.
If you take birth control pills, check with the dentist to determine the best time for the extraction. The oestrogen from the pill can interfere with the clotting.
Sucking in drinks or air
Don’t drink from a straw or spit for a few days to avoid dry sockets.