how long should dry socket packing stay in

There are two types of dry socket packing—medicated gauze or cotton that you need to replace every day and hemostatic packs which dissolve on their own within two to five days.

Dentists put these packs in the extraction site to stabilize the clot and to prevent a painful dental condition called, “dry socket”.

A dry socket or alveolar osteitis could develop after tooth extraction and could last up to ten days. It is characterized by severe pain in the extraction site that radiates to the ear, within 2 to 5 days after an adult tooth was pulled out.

If you are at risk of developing this condition, your dentist might recommend medicated carriers which stays in place from 24 to 48 hours. For those who are experiencing a high level of pain, the pack has to be replaced every 24 hours or at least every two days for up to a week.

What is a Dry Socket Packing?

After washing away loose debris from your extraction site with saline solution or sterile water, the dentist will dry the socket gently with suction. The purpose is to prevent bacterial formation and to remove anything that might interrupt with the natural healing process of your gums.

Afterward, the dentist will make a ‘packing’ by smearing a medicated paste onto a piece of gauze or cotton. The dentist will then place the medicated carrier directly into your tooth socket.

Depending on your comfort needs, you will have to replace the dressing within the next 24 hours to relieve the pain. Afterward, your dentist will remove the carrier in your socket when your symptoms subside. But, they may also use other types of the carrier that dissolve on their own such as:

  • Surgicel
  • Gelfoam
  • Surgifoam

The above-mentioned anti-bleeding packing usually liquefies in three to five days after the dentists place them on bleeding tissues.

Why Do You Need Packing?

Here are three major reasons why dentists put medicated gauze on your socket after tooth extraction:

  • Bleeding control. Ordinary medicated gauzes or cotton balls and sterile medicated carriers like Gelfoam, Surgicel and Surgifoam aid in the cessation of bleeding, also known as hemostasis.
  • Pain relief: Packings immediately relieve some pain. However, it is important to follow the instructions provided by your dentist especially when it comes to cleaning and replacing of gauze at home to avoid infections and injury in the socket.
  • Speedy healing. A person with this condition is at risk of delayed healing and infections. So, it is important to call your doctor immediately when you experience fever and chills, redness or swelling of the socket or gums. It is also important to watch out for pus or discharge from the area of tooth extraction.

Who are at risk?

Not everyone develops this painful condition, but some people are more at risk than the others because of the following reasons.

  • not following your dentists instructions
  • pre-existing gum disease
  • removing gauze from inside your mouth too early
  • smoking
  • traumatic surgery
  • weaker jaw bones

Are you experiencing pain that feels like it covers one side of your face or mouth, extra sensitivity to hot or cold drinks? Those are typical symptthe oms of dry socket! Call your dentist to know what steps to make to avoid further complications.

Author: Peter Mayhew

Peter is a dental hygienist in the city of Chicago, IL. In his free time he likes to write blogs and product reviews on anything dental health related.