Tooth extractions are a last resort treatment option for cavities, tooth decay, and trauma, but they can bring you a lot of relief from discomfort. Plus, with options like bridges and implants, you can restore the structure and function of your mouth in no time at all.
But extractions can come with some complications, including one known as dry socket. Dry socket, or alveolar osteitis, is a painful complication following a dental extraction that affects about 3% of tooth extractions.
Let’s take a look at what dry socket is, as well as some ways you can treat the painful effects at a dentist’s office and find relief with a few home remedies. Here’s everything you need to know about how to treat dry socket and common complications:
Dry socket is a painful condition that sometimes happens after a tooth has been removed from the gums. It is when a blood clot at the site of the extraction fails to develop or becomes dislodged before the wound has fully healed.
When you get a tooth taken out, a blood clot is supposed to form. This serves a number of purposes:
For one, it stops the bleeding at the site of extraction. Additionally, as the blood clot forms, it works as a protective layer for the underlying bone and nerve endings in the tooth socket. Finally, it gives a foundation for the growth of new bone or soft tissue over the clot.
Essentially, it’s important for a clot to form. But when it doesn’t, it can leave the underlying nerves and bone exposed. This causes intense pain and discomfort that makes the area around the socket uncomfortable and along the nerve endings that radiate throughout the face. This socket can also fill with food particles, which can enhance the exposed bone and nerve pain.
The pain of dry socket usually starts within one to three days after the tooth is removed, and it’s most common in the wisdom teeth (third molars).
You might know that you have dry socket after a tooth extraction if you notice one or more of the following symptoms:
It’s not entirely known why some people develop dry sockets while others do not. But it’s been found that bacterial contamination in the socket, or trauma at the surgical site, can increase the risk.
Other risk factors for developing dry socket include smoking and tobacco use, which slows the healing process and can contaminate the healing site. Tooth or gum infection, oral contraceptives, as well as improper aftercare at home following the extraction, can all put you at a greater risk.
If you’re experiencing the pain and discomfort of dry socket, over-the-counter pain medications will likely not be enough to make you feel better. Here are some solutions instead.
One of the most important things to do in order to help your dry socket heal is to keep it clean and free of infection. While dry socket rarely progresses into an infection, it can cause a lot more pain and potentially life-threatening issues if it does get to that point.
You can keep your dry socket clean by rinsing and cleaning the area with a saltwater rinse. Just put about a teaspoon of salt and swish warm water around your mouth. Salt helps to ease inflammation while also killing bacteria.
You can also protect the area by placing medicated gauze in the socket. This helps prevent substances from entering the socket and mitigates the pain while keeping the area clean.
Your dentist will likely give you a prescription pain medication to reduce the discomfort that comes along with dry socket. Extra-strength prescription pain relievers, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can reduce the pain so you can go about living your normal life. Your dentist’s instructions might involve over-the-counter ibuprofen for the pain associated with the typical healing process after tooth removal.
Pain medications won’t cure your dry socket, but typically a dry socket heals on its own. So you can use these medications to power through for a day or two until a clot forms and heals.
Smoking and tobacco usage are some of the main contributors to oral cancer and other full-body health issues. If you have dry socket, these can make your pain worse while also slowing down the healing process.
Smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, making it much more difficult for infected gum tissue to heal. And if you smoke or use tobacco products with an open dry socket, you increase your risk of infection.
It’s best to completely cut these out of your lifestyle in general for proper oral health, but it’s especially important to cut back if you have dry socket and want relief quickly.
After you get your teeth extracted, you want to be careful about your habits to avoid loosening blood clots and increasing the risk of dry socket. Drinking through a straw can cause blood clots to become dislodged because of the suction power inside of your mouth during each sip. Smoking a cigarette (and other poor oral hygiene practices) can do the same.
You’ll need to nix the straws for a few days while your mouth heals, but in no time, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite beverages however you want.
After you get a tooth extracted, you only want to eat soft foods that don’t require chewing to try to keep the blood clots from coming out. With that said, you probably won’t want to eat hard foods anyway because these can cause a lot of pain in your tender mouth post-extraction.
Your body heals its best when you’re sleeping, so after you get a tooth removed, it is important to get a lot of rest after oral surgery. Try not to talk too much and avoid exercise for the first few days. This is because an elevated heart rate can increase bleeding and make it harder for a clot to remain steady.
Incidences of dry socket can cause an immense amount of pain and discomfort, so you probably are going to want to go get it fixed by a dentist right away. If you leave it untreated, it can lead to some serious complications.
The most pronounced complication is an infection at the extraction site. This can be potentially life-threatening and lead to sepsis. Not to mention, it can progress into a chronic bone infection known as osteomyelitis.
While most dental insurance will cover the cost of subsequent care after a tooth extraction if you do get dry socket, you might still need to pay co-pays and other fees at the time of service. Plus, considering over 77 million Americans don’t have dental insurance to rely on, this leaves millions of people needing to pay out of pocket to visit their DDS.
The cost of pain medications, X-rays, and dry socket treatment can be expensive. That’s in addition to the cost of the tooth extraction itself. Out-of-pocket tooth extraction can run upwards of $300 per tooth, which is inaccessible for many people.
There’s no reason for dry socket or dental costs to leave a bad taste in your mouth: Flossy is a pay-as-you-go dental service where you only pay for the services you receive. Plus, we can save you up to 50% on the out-of-pocket costs of common dental treatments, from extraction to dry socket relief.
There’s no membership fee or monthly payments, so the price you see is the price you pay. And there’s no waiting period, so you can sign up for your membership today and start getting treatment right away.
All of our dentists are vetted against a set of rigorous criteria, including knowledge, patient reviews, and graduate degrees from accredited dental programs. So just because our prices are low doesn’t mean that our quality is.
Reach out to a dentist in your town to get started toward a happier, healthier version of your smile.
You can obviously avoid dry socket if you never need to get a tooth removed in the first place. But there are some reasons why you might need to get one taken out.
One of the most common reasons that you might need to get a tooth removed is because it’s an impacted wisdom tooth. Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars that often do not fit properly in the jaw when they grow in. This can cause them to become impacted, which puts pressure on surrounding teeth and can cause a lot of pain.
For that reason, most dentists recommend a wisdom teeth removal before it gets to that point. You don’t need your third molars to function properly.
You might also need to get a tooth extracted if you have immense tooth decay that affects the inner working of your tooth, known as the pulp. If a tooth becomes so badly infected that even a root canal can’t fix it, you might need to get a tooth removed in order to alleviate the pain and discomfort.
Finally, a tooth might need to be extracted if it suffers a large amount of physical damage due to trauma. While fillings and other restorative techniques might be able to save a tooth, extraction may be necessary if you’ve suffered extreme damage.
If you need to get a tooth removed, you can get a restorative device once the socket has fully healed. A common prosthetic is known as a dental implant, which is planted directly into your jawbone to replace the structure and function of your original tooth. In fact, implants are stronger than regular teeth.
Another option is a dental bridge, which is a false tooth that is held in place by crowns on surrounding teeth. This is a common option for missing teeth at the front of the mouth as opposed to molars in the back.
Finally, temporary devices like dentures can be used to give you the appearance of a healthy smile while also giving you a little bit of biting power. With that said, dentures don’t restore the entire function of your teeth in your jaw in the same way as other options.
Dry socket is a painful complication that can happen after a tooth extraction if a blood clot does not form at the extraction site. It can also happen if a clot becomes dislodged from sucking on a straw or smoking a cigarette.
You can prevent dry socket by avoiding hard foods, drinking through a straw, and smoking. It usually heals on its own after a few days, but you can mitigate pain and enhance healing by swishing with warm salt water, taking pain medications prescribed by a dentist, and getting lots of rest.
If dry socket goes untreated, it can lead to potentially life-threatening complications. Don’t wait to get the care you need. Flossy can let you get routine dental care at up to 50% off the face value of dental treatments.
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