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Dry Socket: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

If you've had your tooth removed recently, you can be at risk of dry socket. Although dry socket is known to be the most common complication of tooth removal, the condition is rare.

According to a study conducted by a university hospital in Karachi, a total number of 1246 patients had their teeth extracted and the patients were requested to come back if any complications such as pain were experienced up to one week after extraction. It was found that around 41 people aged between 11 to 80 years old were affected by dry socket. The prevalence was higher among females as compared to males [1] .


What Is Dry Socket? [2]

Dry socket (alveolar osteitis) is a dental condition that sometimes occurs after a permanent tooth is extracted. It usually develops after your wisdom teeth are removed. Dry socket is painful and if left untreated, it can lead to infection and other complications.

Causes Of Dry Socket [3]

Normally, after a tooth is extracted, a blood clot forms to protect the underlying bones, tissues and nerves as the area heals. But, when the blood clot doesn't form, leaving the bone and tissues exposed to bacteria, dry socket occurs. Trauma caused to the affected area may also lead to dry socket.


Symptoms Of Dry Socket

  • Severe pain within a few days after a tooth is extracted
  • Unpleasant taste in your mouth
  • Foul smell coming out from your mouth
  • Visible bone in the socket
  • No blood clot at the site of extraction
  • Pain that travels from the socket to your ear, temple, neck and eye on the side of the face where the tooth is extracted

Risk Factors Of Dry Socket [4]

  • Smoking- Tobacco smoke contains nicotine and other chemicals that can prevent the healing of dry socket and also may contaminate the affected area.
  • Poor oral hygiene- Poor oral hygiene habits like not brushing your teeth twice a day or not rinsing your mouth properly after eating food.
  • Oral contraceptives- Having oral contraceptive pills can interrupt the normal healing process and increase dry socket risk because they contain oestrogen.
  • Tooth or gum infection- Previous or current infections around the extraction site increase the risk of dry socket.
  • History of dry socket- If you have had dry socket in the past, you are more likely to develop it after tooth extraction.

Complications Of Dry Socket [5]

If left untreated, dry socket can cause complications like delayed healing, infection spreading to the bone (osteomyelitis) and infection in the socket.

When To See A Doctor

If you are experiencing throbbing pain in your jaw that spreads to the eye, ear, neck or temple on one side of the face where the tooth was extracted, you should consult a dentist. Also, bad breath and unpleasant taste are some of the tell-tale signs that you should consult the dentist.

Diagnosis Of Dry Socket [6]

The dentist will ask about your symptoms and examine your mouth to check if there is a blood clot. The doctor may suggest an X-ray to check other conditions such as bone infection (osteomyelitis).

Treatment Of Dry Socket [6]

  • Medicated dressings- The dentist will first clean the socket to make sure that there is no food or other particles stuck in it. Then the dentist will pack the socket with medicated gel to help numb the pain. Depending on the severity of pain, your doctor will provide instructions on how many dressing changes you need.
  • Flushing out the socket- Salt water rinse will help remove any food particles that may contribute to pain.
  • Over-the-counter medications- The dentist will recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medication, such as ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve pain.

Certain home remedies can also help treat dry socket.

Lifestyle Changes To Make When You Have Dry Socket

  • Avoid smoking or using tobacco products
  • Drink plenty of liquids
  • Avoid drinking carbonated beverages
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day
  • Avoid eating spicy foods
View Article References  
  1. [1]   Khan, A. H. (2013). Prevalence and association of dry socket in oral health and dental management. Oral Health Dent Manag, 16, 1-5.
  2. [2]   Turner, P. S. (1982). A clinical study of “dry socket”. International journal of oral surgery, 11(4), 226-231.
  3. [3]   Akinbami, B. O., & Godspower, T. (2014). Dry socket: incidence, clinical features, and predisposing factors. International journal of dentistry, 2014.
  4. [4]   Mudali, V., & Mahomed, O. (2016). Incidence and predisposing factors for dry socket following extraction of permanent teeth at a regional hospital in Kwa-Zulu Natal. South African Dental Journal, 71(4), 166-169.
  5. [5]   Alemán Navas, R. M., & Martínez Mendoza, M. G. (2010). Case report: late complication of a dry socket treatment. International journal of dentistry, 2010, 479306.
  6. [6]   Mamoun J. (2018). Dry Socket Etiology, Diagnosis, and Clinical Treatment Techniques. Journal of the Korean Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 44(2), 52-58.

Story first published: Thursday, November 7, 2019, 18:55 [IST]
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