‘Dry socket’ is a dental condition which can occur in adults after they have had a tooth extracted. It is not very common, typically affecting up to just 5% of all cases, but if you are having a tooth extracted for any reason, it is something to be aware of and to be familiar of the symptoms. It is more likely to occur in the lower jaw, but it has been known to occur in the upper jaw as well.
What is dry socket?
During the usual healing process when a tooth has been removed, a blood clot will form in the gap where the tooth has been extracted from. The purpose of the blood clot is to form a protective barrier to look after the gum, the bone and the nerves underneath where the tooth was previously attached. In the case of a dry socket, the blood clot becomes dislodged before it has time to forge a strong enough bond with the gum, which means that the hole is not able to heal effectively.
Recognising and diagnosing dry socket
Unfortunately, if you develop dry socket this is usually very painful and will need to be treated quickly. Although discomfort is expected in the days following a tooth extraction, this should be able to be treated at home with the painkillers prescribed by your dentist, so if you feel that the pain is exceeding a ‘normal’ amount, then speak to your dentist quickly.
Speed is also important as the absence of the blood clot means that there is no barrier protecting the wound, which means that fragments of food can find their way into the hole. Dry socket usually occurs a couple of days after a tooth extraction and patients will usually find they are experiencing a worsening pain at the extraction site, which spreads through the face and causes a lot of discomfort.
On closer inspection, it may be clear to see that there is no blood clot in the place where the tooth used to be, and some patients may even be able to see the exposed bone. Many patients also report an unpleasant taste (and often odour) in their mouth as well, as a result of the infection.
How is dry socket treated?
Dry socket typically requires a return trip to a dentist where the wound is thoroughly cleaned and sometimes a dressing is applied. Once this initial stage is complete, your dentist may also treat dry socket with a course of antibiotics to help cure any infection. They may also prescribe antiseptic cream to be applied around the site of the extracted tooth and could recommend an antibacterial mouthwash.
Here at CK Dental in Bristol, we work with patients who have teeth extracted to ensure that they follow a good hygiene routine after any tooth extraction to mitigate the risk of conditions like dry socket occurring. Although rare, it can happen, but we can help reduce that risk as much as possible.