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An Overview of Dry Socket

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 doesn't go away 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.

Wisdom Teeth Removal

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties. Sometimes these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned, but more often, they are misaligned and require removal.

Read all about wisdom teeth.

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:

  • smoke
  • 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, your doctor may prescribe a stronger drug or will anesthetize the area.

Your dentist will clean the tooth socket, removing any debris from the hole, and then fill the socket with a medicated dressing or a special paste to promote healing. You'll probably have to come back to the dentist's office every day for a dressing change until the socket starts to heal and your pain lessens.

Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to prevent the socket from becoming infected. To care for the dry socket at home, your dentist may recommend that you rinse with salt water or a special mouthwash every day.

WebMD Medical Reference

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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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