Dry socket is an infection in your tooth socket after a tooth is extracted.
The condition usually develops when a blood clot fails to form in the socket,
or if the blood clot comes loose. Dry socket occurs in approximately 5
percent of all tooth extractions.
Normally, the blood clot that
forms after a tooth is removed promotes healing, laying the foundation for the
growth of new bone tissue. When dry socket occurs, this blood clot is lost and
the infected, inflamed socket appears empty — hence the name. Nerves are exposed, and sometimes the bone
is visible in the empty socket.
You may not have symptoms until
3 to 5 days after the extraction. Then, the condition will manifest itself as
severe pain that doesn’t subside, often accompanied by what feels like an
earache. You may also have an unpleasant taste in your mouth, and bad breath.
Several things can cause the
premature loss of a blood clot from an extraction site, including smoking,
forceful spitting, sucking through a straw, coughing or sneezing. You should
also avoid consuming carbonated or alcoholic beverages after an extraction, as
these have also been associated with the development of dry socket. Also, you
• keep your fingers and tongue
away from the extraction site.
• apply an ice pack to your jaw
for the first 24 hours following surgery
— on for 15-20 minutes, and off for 30-40 minutes — to prevent pain and
swelling and stop excessive bleeding.
• not rinse your mouth the day
of surgery. The next day, you can rinse gently with warm salt water; dissolve one teaspoon of salt in a cup
of warm water. Be sure to rinse and spit gently.
Call our office right away if
you notice any symptoms of dry socket. Treatment for dry socket typically
includes a gentle rinsing of the socket.
We then pack it with topical
anesthetic and a sterile gauze dressing. You’ll usually need to return to our
office two to three times over a two-week time period so we can change the
dressing and monitor the healing.