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Dental Dry Socket – Prevention, Signs, Symptoms and Treatment Methods!
After tooth extraction, blood clots naturally form on the empty socket of the tooth to protect the exposed tissues, nerves and jawbone and facilitate the healing process. However, there are cases when the blood clot does not form properly or does not leave the tooth socket, which is known as dry socket.
Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis or fibrinolytic alveolitis, is the most common complication of tooth extraction and causes pain or infection that lasts and is felt for 3 to 4 days after tooth extraction. This dental problem is characterized by severe pain and delayed healing. People suffering from dental dry socket are also at increased risk of infection and can even prevent treatment needed to replace extracted teeth.
Alveolar osteitis or fibrinolytic alveolitis is a hole in the bone where a tooth is extracted, exposing the nerve, tissue, and bone to air, food, liquid, and anything else that enters the mouth. This can cause severe pain and infection that can last for days. The following individuals are more likely to develop alveolar osteitis after tooth extraction:
- Individuals who have had their wisdom teeth removed
- Individuals who use oral contraceptives
- People who do not practice good oral hygiene
- People who have experienced severe tooth extraction/surgical trauma
- People with tooth or gum infections
- Smokers/tobacco users
- Those who have experienced dry socket in the past
- Those who use corticosteroids
Signs and symptoms
Severe pain after tooth extraction is enough for your dentist or oral surgeon to suspect dry socket. You’ll be asked about other symptoms, and he or she will examine your mouth to check for exposed bone or blood clots in your tooth socket. X-rays of your teeth and mouth may also be done to determine severity and rule out other conditions.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- An empty tooth socket that is partially or completely free of blood clots
- Bad taste in mouth
- An exposed bone that is very painful and sensitive to touch
- Bad breath
- Swollen tissue surrounding an empty socket
- Moderate to severe throbbing pain in the socket that may radiate to your neck, eyes, and ears within days of tooth extraction
- Slight fever
- Swollen lymph nodes
Dry sockets can occur in about 3-5% of tooth extractions and are most common after extractions and impacted wisdom teeth. There is no exact explanation for what causes dry socket, but several factors may be involved such as:
- Age of the patient – Elderly patients are more at risk of dry socket than younger patients
- Active infection in the gums and poor oral hygiene result in high bacterial counts in the extracted tooth area
- A history of experiencing dry sockets
- Location of the tooth
- Patient’s health status
- Poor adherence to the dentist’s post-op instructions regarding clot formation and blood clot protection
- Severe tissue and bone trauma after hard tooth extraction
- Smoking and/or tobacco use after tooth extraction
- Small root or bone fragments left in the wound after removal
- Too much drinking
- Use of oral contraceptives – Estrogen can trigger fibrinolysis activity which breaks down blood clots
Treatments and medications for dry socket are primarily aimed at reducing pain and other symptoms but will not speed healing. It is important to accurately diagnose dry socket so that it is not confused with other dental pain such as root canal problems. After treatment, relief will occur within 5 minutes, while other symptoms will disappear over the next few days. Total healing usually takes 10-14 days. Several dry socket treatments include:
- Applying medicated dressings
- Flushing the socket to remove food particles or other debris from it that could cause pain or infection
- Taking pain relievers
- Self-care that will give you instructions on how to continue treating dry socket at home
- Apply cold packs on the outside of the face to reduce swelling and pain
- Do not smoke and avoid tobacco products
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
- Rinse your mouth gently several times a day using warm salt water
- Gently brush your teeth around the dry socket area
- Taking pain relievers as prescribed by your dentist
- Sticking to scheduled appointments with your dentist for dressing changes or other dental care procedures
- Making a dental appointment as soon as pain returns or worsens before a scheduled appointment
There are several things that can be done to reduce the chance of dry socket after tooth extraction. Your dentist will give you instructions to ensure proper treatment and prevention of dry socket. These guidelines may include:
- Use a warm salt water, antibacterial mouthwash, rinse, or gel
- Antibiotics especially if you have a weak immune system
- Applying an antiseptic solution to the wound
- Use of medicated dressings after surgery
- Avoiding strenuous activities
- Take recommended medications
- Avoid caffeinated drinks, alcohol and carbonated and hot drinks for 1-2 days
- Do not smoke before and after surgery to avoid contamination
- Avoid drinking through a straw or spitting to avoid blood clots
- Eat only soft foods
- Be careful when scrubbing around the dry socket area
- Tell your dentist about any other medications you are taking to see if they interfere with blood clotting
Every dentist knows that their patient is prone to dry socket after tooth extraction, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you feel this way. It is their duty to help provide any follow-up dental care necessary to reduce dry socket complications and improve your dental health.
Although dry socket was identified in the late 1800s, medical scientists are still looking for a definitive way to prevent it without drugs such as antibiotics before and after surgery. This issue is still debated and there are some who argue that using antibiotics for treatment can lead to other problems, especially health problems related to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
On the lighter side, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that dry socket can cause, and if you find that you’re one of the 3-5% of people, contact your dentist immediately and take whatever action is necessary to help. prevention or treatment. Your dentist will need to flush the socket to clean it of any particles and apply the necessary medicated dressings to protect the socket. He or she may also prescribe a number of medications to relieve or help reduce pain and swelling. However, your dentist can give you instructions on how to take care of it at home, and if you follow his or her self-care advice, you’ll be fine.
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