Dry Socket Facts

A dry socket is a result of loss of the blood clot in an extraction site. This leaves a sore area of exposed bone until the tissue grows back to cover the bone. It occurs in about 3% of normal extractions and up to 15% in wisdom tooth extractions. Patients who develop a dry socket, often complain of pain 3-4 days after the surgery that is worse than the toothache for which the tooth was removed. They are more common to develop in the lower jaw. The pain can often radiate to the ear, neck or other areas in the jaw. It can also be accompanied by bad breath, or a bad taste in your mouth. It is not an infection and is not accompanied by swelling, redness or fever. If things were getting better after the extraction and suddenly worsen, you may have a dry socket. The good news is that it can easily treated by Dr. O'Donnell or Dr. Willis in our office; medicine can be placed that will provide nearly complete pain relief in minutes.  

What Causes a Dry Socket?

The blood clot that forms after an extraction protects the nerve endings in the bone underneath, providing the basis for the healing and infill of your tooth socket. It may not form properly or be dislodged after its formation, leaving your socket open and exposed. 

The most common causes are:

Bacteria in the area dissolving the clot prematurely. Antibiotic use does not significantly decrease the rate of dry socket because there are hundreds of bacteria in the mouth. Even if you do everything you are supposed to post op, you may still develop dry sockets. 

Sucking through a straw, smoking cigarettes or aggressive rinsing and spitting can dislodge a clot early.

What Makes a Dry Socket More Likely?

A few other risk factors for dry sockets are patients older than thirty, wisdom tooth extractions, teeth that were infected before surgery, and extractions in the lower jaw.

How Can I Avoid Getting a Dry Socket?

Most of the risk factors for dry sockets cannot be prevented. There are a few things you can do to help decrease the risk:

  • Avoid physical exercise or anything that raises your blood pressure for 24 hours. This can dislodge or burst a clot and start the socket bleeding.
  • No alcohol should be consumed on the day of the extraction.
  • Eat a soft diet for a couple of days and chew on the other side of your mouth where possible.
  • Avoid smoking, agressive rinsing or spitting, and use of a straw

Remember, even if you do everything you can to prevent dry sockets they may still happen. If they do occur, they are easily and conveniently treated. A dry socket will resolve on its own if you choose not to have it treated. Most dry sockets last 7-10 days. 

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