What’s a Dry Socket: and How Can You Treat One?

Almost all of the time, oral surgery goes smoothly and patients experience little discomfort in recovery. However, side effects can and do happen—including dry sockets. What exactly is a dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis? It is a condition that occurs when the blood clot that forms after a tooth is extracted and becomes dislodged. Because the jawbone and nerve are then exposed to food, liquids, and air, the socket can become painful.

You’ll know if you have a dry socket if you experience throbbing pain in and around the extraction site that might spread to the ear and face, three to five days after the surgery.

Dry sockets are actually quite rare—only 2% to 5% of people develop this after a tooth extraction. However, if you’re one of the unfortunate recipients, here are a few tips on how to correct the problem and manage your discomfort:

Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or aspirin can help ease your pain. If you need something stronger, call your dentist to see if they can prescribe you something.

Get in to the dentist or oral surgeon right away. Your dentist or oral surgeon will need to pack the socket with a special paste or medicated dressing to help the socket continue to heal and alleviate your pain.  You may need to visit every few days to change the dressings.

If you’re preparing to have a tooth extracted, here’s how you can minimize your risk factors for getting a dry socket and hopefully ensure this painful problem doesn’t happen to you:

  • Avoid rigorous activity. Drinking through a straw, forceful spitting, or eating chewy or hard foods should be avoided after surgery.
  • Don’t smoke. Tobacco use increases your chances of developing a dry socket. At a minimum, avoid smoking at least 24 hours before and after surgery.
  • Exercise proper home care post surgery. That includes drinking plenty of water, not brushing within the first day of your procedure, sticking to soft foods after surgery, and using an antibacterial

Bergen Oral & Maxillofacial takes every precaution with patients to make any tooth extraction or wisdom teeth surgery as comfortable and easy as possible.

If you need wisdom teeth removed, dental implants, or a tooth extraction, call us with your questions. Our doctors will be happy to talk with you. Hackensack (201.343.8297), Westwood (201.664.5656), and Ridgewood (201.444.4137).