*This image does not show a dry socket*

Have you ever experienced a dry socket? If your answer is no, count yourself lucky. It involves quite a bit of agony. Below is some valuable information so you know how to prevent and heal a dry socket.

What Is A Dry Socket?

A dry socket can occur after a tooth extraction due to exposed nerve and bone when a blood clot forms inside the hole or socket. This is a very important part of healing as it helps to protect the nerve and bone from infection.

If the blood clot dissolves or is no longer there, the hole will be left open. Any food or fluids & even the air you breathe will now get into contact with the exposed nerve and bone. This can result in inflammation of the bone which is also known as a dry socket.

What Does A Dry Socket Feel Like?

A dry socket will cause throbbing pain in the jaw area. It can move to your ear and present itself as an earache or it can stay in the area of the extraction on the one side of the face & neck.

Contact with anything cold such as ice will worsen the pain immediately and intensely.

If you have ever had a tooth extraction done, then you likely know how painful it can be. Don’t mean to scare you, but the pain from an untreated dry socket is often much worse.

Symptoms of a Dry Socket

Apart from the pain, there are other symptoms that go along with a dry socket:

  • Bad breath
  • Pus in the hole or socket
  • Foul taste in the mouth
  • The foul smell when you touch the area
  • Swelling
  • Heat in the area

Is it A Dry Socket?

Extracting a tooth can be painful enough. This makes diagnoses difficult. How do you know it’s not just the pain from the extraction that you’re experiencing but actually a dry socket?

Here are some tips so you know when to visit your dentist:

  • The pain will mostly increase two or three days after your extraction but can start any time during the first week after the procedure.
  • While pain is normal after a tooth extraction it should subside in time instead of getting worse.
  • The most obvious sign is the “dryness” of the socket. In other words, you’ll be able to see the white of the bone or jaw instead of a blood clot.

For the latter, you obviously need assistance from your dentist, because you won’t be able to properly diagnose yourself by looking in the mirror.

How Do You Treat A Dry Socket?

Don’t despair if you face this problem and do not hesitate to ask for professional help. Be especially careful with self-medicating, because over the counter medicine will not be enough to treat a dry socket.

Your first step should be to contact your dentist. They will start by irrigating the area, thus, cleaning it out while getting possible blood flow started again.

The exposed area will now be filled with an analgesic substance. Once the hole has been filled with the necessary medicine a coating will be placed on top. This coating will help protect the area further and provide pain relief.

You’ll also get a prescription to control the pain at home. This will usually be an anti-inflammatory drug as well as a painkiller.

Here’s the good news: You’ll experience immediate relief after you’ve been to your dentist. However, the cleaning and medical procedure often needs to be repeated.

How Long Does A Dry Socket Last?

There’s usually no long-lasting effects from a dry socket. The maximum time you are facing will likely be around the 10-day mark – if you treat the problem.

How Long Will It Take to Heal?

A dry socket will start to heal when new tissue grows over the exposed bone and nerves. This can take anything from six to 10 days.

Can Stitches Prevent A Dry Socket After Removing Wisdom Teeth?

Some dentists will insert stitches after extracting wisdom teeth in order to prevent a dry socket. Because the area will be closed the blood clot will be uninterrupted in most cases allowing for healthy healing.

However, this is not 100% effective. In some cases, a dry socket can form even when stitches are present.

How Can You Prevent A Dry Socket?

Do you have any power in preventing or managing this condition? Absolutely. Here are some tips:

  • Smoking: Unfortunately, there are no hacks or ways around having a cigarette when you’ve had an extraction done. It’s important to stop smoking for at least 24 hours after the procedure. Trying to close the area with cotton wool won’t help as the smoke will just penetrate through and cause a dry socket.
  • Hygiene: Keep your mouth and teeth as clean as possible to prevent contamination.
  • Rinse: Use a medicated rinse that’ll be given to you after the procedure.
  • Don’t touch: Don’t touch the area at all as it’ll just cause bacterial infection.
  • Eat smart: Avoid food such as popcorn that can get stuck in the area. Rather eat softer food such as soup or yogurt for three or four days after the procedure.
  • Sharing is caring: Be sure to mention any prescribed medication you use to your dentist before the extraction. Some items such as heart medication might have an effect on your blood clotting ability and your dentist will have to plan the treatment around this.

Concluding Thoughts

A dry socket can be quite painful. The good news is that a dry socket only affects 3% of patients after a procedure. Unless the thought of revisiting your dentist sounds like a fun date, it is best you follow the instructions you’re given after your extraction to avoid unnecessary pain from a dry socket. The power is in your hands.

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.