What Is It?
Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is a fairly common complication after a tooth extraction. It is a potentially very painful condition that can develop after any tooth is extracted and so is not limited to just wisdom teeth although it is more common in teeth extracted from the back of the mouth, because of the poorer blood flow in the area. People who have had previous dry sockets are at a higher risk of getting another. And women who are on birth control have a higher risk too.
When a tooth is removed, a blood clot will naturally form in the empty socket in order to protect the exposed bone and nerves, stop bleeding and start the production of new tissue in the surgery site. Dry socket occurs when this blood clot has been dislodged or dissolved therefore leaving the aformentioned bones and nerves vulnerable to all the things that would normally be protected by it such as food, drink, even air moving in and out of the mouth while breathing can cause some degree of discomfort for sufferers.
What Are Symptoms
Anybody that has a wisdom tooth extraction will feel a level of discomfort for a while after the surgery but in most cases the degree of pain will slowly fade after the wisdom teeth removal. In cases of dry socket wisdom teeth most people find that they too experience this diminishing level of pain and then suddenly, after 2 to 3 days, the pain intesifys by a massive amount. Besides the pain (which is often described as a throbbing type of pain) there are other wisdom teeth dry socket symptoms.
The most obvious symptom is a visual one. If it is possible to look into the problematic area (can be tricky with wisdom teeth due to their awkward location) you may be able to see that the socket is empty and bone is visible.
Another giveaway is unpleasent smelling breath or a bad taste in the patients mouth.
Dry socket really is something you should do your very best to avoid, here are a few pointers to decrease your chances of developing.
- No straws – Although it may seem like a good idea to drink through a straw because it is easier when your mouth is sore or swollen it is a very bad idea. The action of sucking on a straw creates a pressure inbalance which can quite easily force the freshly formed blood clot out of its socket.
- Tobacco/Smoking – I’m sure you have heard it before too many times from medical professionals but tobacco in any form during wisdom teeth removal recovery is extremely detrimental. Tobacco will make you feel a lot more pain in the area, delay healing and the process of smoking is similar to that of sucking through a straw and as such may have the same effect.
- Eating – While it may be common sense not to chew food near a recently removed wisdom tooth it is also important not to do so to prevent dry socket wisdom teeth as food can dislodge the blood clot.
- Rinsing – Follow your dentist/surgeons advice on how often to rinse your mouth. Excessive rinsing can cause irritation to the site and inteferes with the clotting process.
- Menstrual cycle – Obviously applied to females only! Schedule your extraction in the last week of your cycle(days 23 to 28) when estrogen levels are at their lowest. Statistics indicate that this can half the likelihood of suffering from dry socket wisdom teeth.
How Is it Treated?
Firstly it is important to know that if you have dry socket, it is imperative to visit your dentist as soon as possible so that they can examine and determine if you are suffering from this condition. The first port of call will be wisdom teeth pain relief which may be in the form of over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or a stronger form of pain relief if the pain is severe.
Next step is for the dentist to fill the socket with a dressing or paste that will speed up the healing process and help to form a new blood clot in the quickest time possible. Infections in dry sockets are common so you may also be described with anti-biotics to fight this infection or preempt infection and stop it before it occurs.
How to Prevent after a Tooth Extraction
One of the best ways is simply to follow all the advice the dentist has to give after the extraction. Most dentists will provide a written list. If one is not offered is a good idea to request one. Anyone who has experienced a dry socket will confirm, it is best to follow the list than suffer the consequences.
First the dentist will provide a gauze packing over the area. This packing should not be removed for at least sixty minutes. This allows the blot clot to properly form and set it. All the other instructions relate to keeping that clot where it can protect the socket.
- ~ Within the first 24 hours the patient should not rinse the mouth vigorously.
- ~ The patient should avoid all alcohol use within the first 24 hours.
- ~ Sucking on a straw in prohibited within the first 24 hours
- ~ Smoking should not be done within the first 24 hours (or never again if possible)
- ~ Rigorous physical exercise should be avoid within the first 24 hours of the extraction
- ~ Avoid hot drinks and soups within the first 24 hours
It sounds like if one makes it through the first 24 hours, the patient is in the clear. This is not the case. Although this is the time the patient has the most control, 95 percent of dry sockets are noticed in the first week.
Some of the signs and symptoms may be
- ~ Intensifying pain
- ~ Tooth socket may look empty
- ~ Tissue around the extraction site is red and inflamed
- ~ Lymph nodes in the jaw and neckline may become inflamed
- ~ Bad taste in the mouth
If a dry socket occurs it takes about seven to ten days for the area to heal. It may not be painful this entire time, but it may delay and make the time longer as well.
Getting a tooth extracted is rarely a pleasant experience. Typically if all goes well the soreness does not last more than a couple days and eventually the gums become stronger and able to take more pressure of eating.
Again, the best thing for prevention is to carefully follow all of the instructions provided by the dentist or surgeon.