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Dry Socket: Anatomy and Symptoms

Dry Socket Prevention - Cure
Dry Socket FAQ

Dry socket, an infection, occurs in about 5 percent of routine tooth extractions.

Essentially it is the failure of blood clot formation that is supposed to occur in the extraction site. In some instances, dry socket occurs when a successfully formed clot becomes loose and dislodged.

The blood clotting process is a normal event after the removal of teeth. It initiates the healing process that should begin almost immediately. The absence of a clot exposes the underlying tissues to infection and heightened sensitivity (nerve tissue exposed or near surface of extraction site) thereby increasing the perception of pain. In some cases, boney tissue may be visible in the socket.

Additional symptoms may include foul tastes and extreme bad breath (halitosis). Reports of ear aches and jaw ache are also common.

Common Causes of Dry Socket

  • Smoking
  • Excessive consumption of liquids
  • Rinsing the mouth
  • Forceful spitting
  • Sucking behaviors (use of straw, throat lozenges, candies, etc)
  • Carbonated, effervescent or alcoholic beverages

Treatment Comfort Suggestions

Apply ice packs to the affected areas of your jaw off and on during the first 24 hours after surgery. Cycling the application of the ice packs every 15-30 minutes or so (find a cycle that is the most comfortable) will reduce the perception of pain and help to control swelling and continued bleeding.

Use a saline solution (one teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water) to rinse your mouth the second day after surgery. Remember to rinse gently and avoid the temptation to over-rinse your mouth. Continue to avoid the use of beverage straws, lozenges, etc.

Take antibiotics as prescribed by your dentist. If, after a few days, any of the symptoms mentioned above appear or reappear... you probably have dry socket. Consult your dentist for additional treatment which might include irrigation of the infected area, followed with a hand packing of the site with medicated material to accelerate the healing process.

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